First I must apologize to the makers of Toy's House. I am sorry. I am very, very sorry and I will never do it again. I fell asleep during the movie. Like a 10-year-old on New Year's Eve I was filled with excitement but my eyes just got too heavy and sleep overwhelmed me, shuttling me off into an unwanted unconscious for about 15 minutes somewhere in the middle.
That is not a reflexion on the movie. This is a result of being at Sundance, where the movie premiered, for almost a week and, well, living like a teenage boy. It's all staying up late, procrastinating your homework, watching way too many nerdy (but awesome movies), talking to your friends instead of working, eating mostly things that come in bags, and riding in buses. Lots and lots of buses. That's why I was so tired by the time I got to Toy's House, the third movie of my day.
My lifestyle was quite fitting though because the movie is about what happens when teenage boys try to live like adults (instead of the reverse, which is, at least until the festival is over, my life). Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is sick of living by the rules of his gruff and comically sadistic father (Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman whose mustache appears to be growing and his devoured the lower half of his face) and his best friend Patrick (The Big C ginge Gabriel Basso) is sick of his comically overbearing mother (Offerman's IRL wife Megan Mullally) so the two of them decide to move into a house they build in the woods. Along for the ride is Biaggio (Moises Arias) and Kelly (Erin Moriarty), the girl Joe and Patrick fight over.
Considering this is a Sundance coming of age story about three boys who move into the woods, you think there will be lots of slow shots of nature and brooding about what it's like to become a man. And there is that. But what makes this movie brilliant is the zippy one-liners, the genius comic timing, and the inventive situations that these quirky but endearing characters find themselves in. It's like one of those smart stories about rites of passage, but with amazing jokes. Imagine if Porky's if it bothered to read the articles in Playboy and you'd have this movie. Especially when things go awry with the house and the allegiances of friends and family are tested.
The MVP is Offerman, who plays a similar but more verbose version of his Parks character and whose every line of dialogue is a stinging zinger. It's enough to drive his son out of the house, but makes the rest of the audience howl. Mullally is also great, playing a version of everyone's mom who leaves embarrassing notes in your lunch and won't leave you alone about taking your shoes off at the front door. Arias is a revelation, playing a honor-bound oddball to great effect (if only he were tall enough to be cast as something other than a teen).
The young cast is also stellar, but the real credit belongs to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta. They have made the rarest of things, a teen comedy that is a sweet as it is amusing, as true as it is charming, and as beautiful as it is funny. I promise when it makes its way into theaters (and it just scored a distribution deal) I'll be back to see the whole thing in its entirety and live like a teenage boy once more.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Toy's House Productions]
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Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Undoubtedly motivated by a record-breaking box office weekend take of $114 million, Sony Pictures has set the opening date for its Spider-Man sequel. Spider-Man 2 will swing its way into theaters May 7, 2004 with stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst reprising their roles as Spider-Man and Mary Jane, The Associated Press reports. The film, which is based on Stan Lee's popular comic-book series, broke several box office records since its release Friday, including best single day gross and biggest per-screen average in history for a wide release.
High-powered multimedia mogul David Geffen is donating $200 million to the medical school at University of California, Los Angeles, which will now be called the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, according to AP. Geffen, the "G" in DreamWorks SKG, has donated to medical-related causes before: He gave $2.5 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, $2.5 million to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York and $1.4 million to AIDS Action in Washington.
Ali director Michael Mann wants Tom Hanks to star in his next film about the Roman invasion of Britain. According to Ananova.com, Mann wants Hanks to play Julius Caesar. Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Colin Firth are also tipped to feature in the film.
Robert De Niro is set to reprise his role in Warner Bros.' sequel to the 1999 crime comedy Analyze This, aptly titled Analyze That. The film will reunite De Niro with Raging Bull co-star Cathy Moriarty-Gentile, who will play a mob widow who takes over her late husband's business, Variety reports. De Niro will resume his role as the emotionally troubled Paul Vitti.
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Real-life heroine Erin Brockovich has settled a libel lawsuit by her ex-husband, Reno, Nev., stockbroker Steven Michael Brockovich, the AP reports. In the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2001, Brockovich accused his ex-wife of libel, slander, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress for stating in two publications that he didn't pay child support for their daughter.
The World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. has dropped its WWF name for a new moniker. The company will now be known as World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., or WWE, Reuters reports. WWF officials cited the company's losing battle with the World Wildlife Fund over the infamous initials as a factor for the switch, Reuters reports.
MTV has ordered eight half-hour episodes of a musical sketch/comedy show from the Bomb-itty boys--GQ, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Erik Weiner (aka Red Dragon) and J.A.Q.--the writing/performing team of the Off Broadway hit The Bomb-itty of Errors, Variety reports. The show is slated to air this fall.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams will reunite for Laverne & Shirley Together Again. The show will air at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.
Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the TV production company behind That '70s Show, will cut up to 25 percent of its staff over the next few weeks, according to Variety. A spokesman for CWM said the cuts are part of an effort to keep the company a lean, profitable operation in a competitive TV environment.
Michael Jackson, Tonos Entertainment and AOL have launched a songwriting contest offering fans a chance to collaborate with the self-proclaimed King of Pop, the AP reports. Jackson will record the winning submission, possibly including it on an upcoming album. All proceeds will go to children's charities. The contest runs through June 10.
The family of an Argentinean pop star who was killed in a rollover accident while driving his 1998 Ford Explorer on June 24, 2000, is suing Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. The family filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Miami after a Buenos Aires court ruled that the singer, Rodrigo Bueno, was at fault.
Norwegian director Even Benestad's documentary on his transvestite doctor father, Alt om min far (All About My Father) has won top honors at the 9th annual HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Variety reports. Montreal's Andre-Line Beauparlant took home the director's honor.
Comedian/writer Judy Toll died Thursday at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long battle with melanoma. She was 44. Toll most recently served as a consultant on HBO's Sex and the City, Variety reports.