There are two ways to judge Dan Rush's directorial debut Everything Must Go. You can look at the film itself and/or you can grade star Will Ferrell’s performance. To explain my rating I would give the actual film 4 stars while Ferrell’s performance earns a solid 5. Since they go hand in hand the average represents my rating: 4.5 stars.
The film follows Ferrell as a recovering alcoholic who relapses
after losing his job. He comes home to find that his wife has left him and
put all of his stuff on their front lawn prompting his decision to live on his yard. But local laws prohibit that (and some
neighbors don’t approve) so he is forced to turn the whole thing into a yard sale within
five days. If you can spot the metaphor between the things on the lawn
and his troubles congrats! You’ve cleared Metaphors 101. We’ll cover
similes next week. Anyway living on the lawn causes Ferrell to look
back and ponder over his life decisions. Helping him along the way is
newcomer Christopher Wallace (Biggie’s son) the precocious child that
helps teach him a lesson. Again a more overused cliche couldn’t be
found but it’s done right and Wallace is a joy to watch on screen.
Rebecca Hall as the pregnant neighbor who befriends Ferrell while he's camping on the lawn is a pleasant surprise as well holding her own against the star's incredible energy.
On Ferrell’s performance: It's by no means revolutionary for the craft of acting but is a breakout turn for the funny man. A more traditional dramatic actor could’ve lazily walked through the script and come out fine on the other end but Ferrell's portrayal is stark raw and real. You know the Will Ferrell scream? Imagine someone doing that not because it's funny but because it's their only means of expressing emotion. That’s what he does in this movie. He took the energy he employs in his comedies to reach new manic heights and channeled it into the darkest corners of the human psyche. The closest thing we can compare it to is Stranger Than Fiction since it's his only other dramatic role worthy of note (in that it's something most people know about and can compare to) but that film had a strong narrative hook that took care of all the whimsy so Ferrell could just be “normal.” Everything Must Go doesn’t have the benefit of that hook so Ferrell jumps headfirst into the pits of human emotion. I highly doubt it’ll garner him any award nominations but it was pleasing to see that he can actually act. And in hindsight it makes the crazy Ferrell that much funnier.
Onto the actual film: a fairly standard black comedy and that is by no means an insult. Standard can be good as long as it’s handled well and director Rush treads through the narrative carefully. The story jumps around a bit as the characters get the inspiration they need to move on to the next plot point awfully quickly but that affords cinematographer Michael Barrett more time to capture the beautiful South West landscape. Though there isn’t anything amazing about the film it is solid movie executed really well. A refreshing change of pace for Ferrell and a delightfully dark change of mood in the doldrums of the summer blockbuster.
Pretty people just don’t understand—you’re not safe anywhere and all the sadists are after YOU! As the two geniuses in The Hitcher Grace (Sophia Bush) and her boyfriend Jim (Zachary Knighton) learn real quickly a cross-country trek to New Mexico in a beat-up car is especially risky. During their first night out on the open road it’s raining cats and dogs when they almost run over a man (Sean Bean) who’s standing aimlessly in the middle of the street his car apparently broken down. The young couple decides against lending him a helping hand with it pouring down rain and all. Bad move. When they stop for gas later Jim and Grace cross paths with the man who goes by the name of John Ryder. He asks the couple if he might hitch a short ride with them to a local motel. This time they oblige. Bad move. One aspect the studio must’ve loved about The Hitcher: Being shot primarily in a car the cast cannot feasibly be more than three deep—four tops. That also means that said cast must wear the tension well if the camera is to be on them throughout. Bush (TV’s One Tree Hill) the movie’s biggest asset as far as its target audience is concerned shrieks well and most importantly is smokin'. And when it comes time to fight back she doesn’t look so bad doing it even if there’s scant giggling in the theater at the now clichéd image of a weapon-wielding hot chick. As the hugely sadistic villain Bean (GoldenEye the LOTR movies et al) is more than adequately creepy. There’s something to be said with most of The Hitcher’s viewers’ inability to recognize him because an A-list movie star just wouldn’t work in this role. Obscurity aside Bean his face lurking around every corner will simply creep the crap out of the young audience. As for Knighton he seems and looks like the garden-variety up-and-comer and try as I might there’s nothing wrong with his biggest role to date—except a scene of um tug-of-war that is tough to watch or look away from. Veteran actor Neal McDonough also pops in with a brief role as a sheriff caught in the proverbial crosshairs. These days it’s tough to come up with anything new in a horror film—so directors just don’t bother. Save for neo-horror maestro Eli Roth there’s no originality to be seen especially when seemingly 99 percent of horror movies are remakes and when they’re not remakes they’re Primeval or Turistas. The Hitcher is much better than those two but director Dave Meyers truly eliminates most of the psychological aspect of the original 1986 Hitcher in exchange for a polished contemporary feel. Of course Meyers is one the most renowned music video directors of the past several years so it's no surprise when he mistakes volume for thrills; in fact the decibels will be the chief reason for almost all of the audience’s screaming. Not that there aren’t scary moments however. The writers Jake Wade Wall (When a Stranger Calls) and Eric Bernt (Romeo Must Die) actually get the film off to a brisk smooth start but they ultimately turn John Ryder into more of a Terminator-like character and ask for too many leaps of faith and suspensions of disbelief—again not that their intended audience won’t indulge them. At least the studio had the guts to retain the intended 'R' rating!
Dave (Barry Watson) Adam (Michael Rosenbaum) and Doofer (Harland Williams) make up the social committee at Kappa Omega Kappa (KOK get it?) a chauvinistic fraternity that chastises women based on their looks. But when the evil KOK president frames them for the theft of fraternity funds the trio suddenly find themselves out on the street. They must now find a place to stay on campus until they can clear their name and get back into the fraternity's good graces. Until this point the film almost makes Freddy Got Fingered look relevant. Then the three protagonists throw on women's garb and join the sorority Delta Omicron Gamma (DOG get it?) which just happens to be in the middle of a membership drive. At least now it gets funny. For the rest of the film Dave Adam and Doofer become Daisy Adina and Roberta and find out what it's like to wear eyeliner heels and be less than desirable. Admittedly there are some laugh-out-loud moments interspersed in this inane comedy; when a fellow sister enters the guys' room and asks if any of them has a maxi pad because she has soaked through all of hers Adina laments to his friends: "We're not supposed to see what's behind the curtain." Although most of the jokes in this pic are blatantly stereotypical I have to admit that when Adina is elated to find the dress he wants in his size on the sale rack I knew where he was coming from.
Barry Watson has gone to extremes to shed the good boy image of Matt Camden which he has portrayed on the WB's 7th Heaven since 1996. In Sorority Boys Watson plays "the pretty one"--Daisy. His performance however is bland and despite starring in this raunchy comedy Watson still comes off as the angelic one who falls in love with the brainy girl in glasses. On the other hand Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luther on the WB's Smallville) is hilarious as Adam/Adina. You feel bad when he gets laughed at on campus and almost vindicated when he hurls a rock through the windshield of a car filled with idiots. Harland Williams completes the trio as Doofer/Roberta the sensitive one that bonds with his sorority sisters. His character is probably the least original one but Williams still has some of the funniest scenes in the film. Unfortunately Doofer is not much different from the characters Williams portrayed in Freddy Got Fingered and Half Baked. The head of the DOG sorority is played ably by Melissa Sagemiller(Soul Survivors). Sagemiller's character has a sweet earthiness to her and is not your typical bombshell made ugly by frumpy clothes and glasses.
With Sorority Boys Wally Wolodarsky delivers a totally unspectacular movie rife with crude humor and tasteless jokes. However I didn't find myself particularly bothered or offended by the film because it satirizes college fraternities which in my opinion are chauvenistic and elitist to begin with. In the film's opening sequence for example the KOK president is getting ready to punish pledges with something that involves Crisco and hamsters. Crass yes but isn't humiliation what hazing is all about? Perhaps it is in bad taste but I laughed when Roberta admits he is addicted to porn during an all-girl support session and I laughed even harder when it's his turn to clean the bathroom and he yanks a massive wad of hair out of the drain. "It's like a Wookie man!" he exclaims followed by a hilarious impression of Chewbacca. Sure there are some not so funny moments (the duel with dildos is just plain dumb) and their plan to clear their names is completely implausible. But why shouldn't we appreciate a good laugh at the Greek system's expense once in a while? The film would have been frighteningly realistic had the three boys not learned a valuable lesson at the end.