REVIEW: “The Ridiculous 6”

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Adam Sandler is an living, breathing enigma. He started as a young, fairly entertaining comedian on Saturday Night Live who eventually put out a couple of fairly entertaining movies. Since then has put out one painfully awful film after another. A quick gander at his embarrassingly bad filmography should leave you wondering how this guy is still making movies. Here is why he is an enigma – his movies make a lot of money. People go see his stuff and many find it funny. That is a mystery I may never be able to crack.

Sandler’s latest is the western spoof “The Ridiculous 6” and you have to give the guy this – he’s consistent. This has every bit of the stupidity, annoyances, and laziness identified with Sandler’s previous ‘comedies’. The Wild West offers a new setting but Sandler and company do nothing more than stain it with their brand of asininity. I only managed a few grins in this entire dopey and overly long slog.

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Sandler plays Tommy who has been raised by the Apache after the murder of his mother. Tommy is given the name “White Knife” and is set to marry Smoking Fox (Julia Jones). A man named Frank Stockburn (Nick Nolte) arrives at the village claiming to be Tommy’s father. He reveals he is terminally ill and that he has $50,000 buried nearby. He wants Tommy and his village to have the money but before they can dig it up bandits arrive and take Frank away because of an outstanding debt. Tommy can’t find the buried loot so he sets out t0 swipe $50,000 in order to save his father.

Along the way Tommy finds that his father has been….active. He meets five different men claiming that Frank Stockburn is the father they have never met. They each join Tommy in his absurd quest to find enough money to pay off his father’s captives. Of course each have their on goofy quirk. Rob Schneider plays a Mexican with a gassy burro (it’s just as offensive as it sounds). Taylor Lautner is a village idiot with a strong neck. Terry Crews is a piano player who hides that he is black. Jorge Garcia is a hairy mute wildman. Luke Wilson is a guilt-ridden boozer.

Then there is the laundry list of cameos and brief appearances which Sandler movies are known for. Harvey Keitel, Jon Lovitz, Blake Shelton, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Will Forte, Vanilla Ice, Chris Kattan, and John Turturro to name a few. Occasionally one of these will offer a mildly amusing moment, but most are just wedged in as a recognizable face. Why some of these guys signed on for such dumb roles and lame material is beyond me.

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“The Ridiculous 6” is supposedly a satire of the western genre and all of the formulas and stereotypes they often used. I tend to give movies a lot of leeway and feel some people are often too easily offended. But this film doesn’t have the smarts to sell itself as convincing satire and it’s no wonder some have viewed the characterizations as offensive. When material is this poor it’s hard to accept it as good satire.

Ultimately “The Ridiculous 6” is more of the same from a guy perfectly content with delivering cheap overused gags and the same boring, unfunny formulas. I suppose Sandler is happy cashing the big checks and as long as people still flock to these things I don’t see him challenging himself or changing directions. So we can expect more films like “The Ridiculous 6” – juvenile, aimless, and consistently idiotic wastes of time. Lucky us.

VERDICT – 1.5 STARS

1.5 stars

Flaunt It or Flush it – Spring Movies 2014

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You certainly wouldn’t know it by the weather but the Spring movie season is upon us. The winter movie season is notorious for its flops, particularly in January and February. But usually things start looking up come Spring time. So here is how this works: First I’ll talk about Spring releases that I am genuinely interested in and want to spread the word about. These are films I’ll certainly flaunt. I’m also going to pick five releases that are (from my perspective) toilet ready. These I’ll flush. It’s Flaunt It or Flush It time again.

FLAUNT ‘EM

BUDAPEST1. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (March 7, 2014) – It doesn’t take long for Spring to get rolling. March 7th brings us one of my most anticipated movies of the year. It’s Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Anderson is one of the few comedy filmmakers who I think does it right. His quirky original worlds and subtle themes have always worked for me and it looks like we are getting that again. Ralph Fiennes leads what is one of the best looking ensemble casts of the year and he looks to be a perfect fit with this special brand of comedy. The trailer looks insanely funny and I can’t wait for March 7th.

NOAH2. “Noah” (March 28, 2014) – I’ve noticed several people approaching “Noah” with a bit of skepticism. I can definitely see why. But I also think this has potential to be an amazing film. As frequent readers of my site know, I’m a huge fan of Russell Crowe. I think this role is right up his alley. Plus there is the good supporting cast of Ray Windstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, and Jennifer Connelly. The big question is Darren Aronofsky. His past work makes me wonder what kind of approach he will take. On the other hand he is a fine director and if he respects the material there could be great results.

CAPTAIN3. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (April 4, 2014) – My deep roots as a comic book fan makes me a sucker for good superhero films. I was a big fan of Marvel’s first Captain American movie. This one looks like it could be even better. Ed Brubaker’s “Winter Soldier” story from the Captain American comic book series was one of my favorites of all time. It’s perfect for the big screen treatment and the early trailers look to be capturing what made the story so great. Chris Evans is perfect as Steve Rogers and the addition of Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford are intriguing. Plus this is set to be the first big tie to the next Avengers film. Sign me up!

LE WEEKEND4. “Le Week-End” (March 14, 2014) – This is a film that has been on my radar for a while. It has already opened up overseas and it makes its United States debut on March 14. This British drama from director Roger Michell follows an older married couple who celebrate their 30th anniversary by going to Paris. Their intent was to rejuvenate their marriage but things don’t go as planned and they are forced to build back their relationship from the ground up. The wonderful Jim Broadbent and Lindsey Duncan play the lead roles which automatically attracted me. The trailer shows a great wit and some beautiful Paris locations.That’s enough to excite me.

XMEN5. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23, 2014) – Yet another Marvel comics superhero movie, but it’s another one that looks really good. Bryan Singer is back and he’s bringing the whole gang. The cast members from the original X-Men films including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, and Ellen Page meet the cast members from First Class including Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult. Throw in some brand new mutants and you have a huge cast of characters. This could blow up in Singer’s face, but it could also be a spectacular film.

FLUSH ‘EM

TYLER PERRY1. “Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club” (March 14, 2014) – Tyler Perry is becoming a regular on these lists. This Spring he graces us with what looks like the corniest, dopiest, and most cliched movie of his career. I never judge a movie solely on its trailer but it gives us one goofy line, lame gag, and eye-rolling moment after another. Supposedly a group of mothers come together after an incident at school and they become big buddies. Then they partake in a host of silly antics and dopey romances which is supposed to be fun and entertaining. Well I can’t imagine this thing being fun or entertaining.

BLENDED2. “Blended” (May 23, 2014) – If an Adam Sandler movie is released it automatically gets consideration for this list. Perhaps that isn’t the most objective approach but Sandler has a track record that I can’t shake. His consistency would be impressive if it didn’t involve stupid and unfunny movies. I have no reason to believe that “Blended” will be any different from the other garbage he churns out. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is a turning point in Sandler’s career. Maybe this is the film that gets him back on track. Personally I don’t buy it and I can see this as a flusher all the way.

HAUNTED3. “A Haunted House 2” (March 28, 2014) – Can someone please explain to me how a crappy movie like last year’s “A Haunted House” could inflict a sequel upon us? Well, I guess if you have a $2 million budget and you pull in nearly $60 million at the box office a sequel is inevitable. I guess the better question is how on earth did that thing make $60 million? The first film was completely unwatchable and this new thing looks like a carbon copy of it. Sitting through the trailer alone is as entertaining as having a root canal. I know there is an audience for this movie but I promise you it doesn’t include me.

OTHER WOMAN4. “The Other Woman” (April 25, 2014) – I suppose there may be a decent idea stashed away somewhere in “The Other Woman” but to be honest I can’t find it. Three woman come together under the bind of being cheated on by the same man. According to the trailer their quest for revenge features dopey missteps, vomit jokes, lame anatomy gags, and an assortment of other things that I don’t find remotely interesting. This is a comedy that could potentially squeeze out a laugh or two. But personally I think it looks like another clichéd and formulaic comedy that will probably find an audience despite its mediocrity.

NEIGHBORS5. “Neighbors” (May 9, 2014) – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – Seth Rogan in a raunchy comedy. Look, I know this guy has a big following but I don’t get it. This time he and Zac Efron rip off the great Belushi and Aykroyd comedy from 1981. Rogan’s one-trick pony act features the same vulgar, juvenile nonsense that we always get from him and his friends. I know there is an audience out there who will find shooting firecrackers out of your butt and an infant baby chewing on a used condom as funny. I find it to be another example of how void of smarts and originality Hollywood has become when it comes to comedy. This is a flusher through and through.

REVIEW: “Grown Ups 2”

GROWN UPS POSTERWhy would I subject myself to the torment of watching “Grown Ups 2”? Am I a glutton for punishment? Did I actually think this would be a watchable film? I mean let’s be honest, Adam Sandler hasn’t made a good movie in years and the first “Grown Ups” picture was a laborious exercise in stupidity. So there’s no reason to think this would be a funny and entertaining comedy, right? Or is there? After all it did rake in nearly $250 million at the box office. Oh who am I fooling? “Grown Ups 2” is yet another painfully bad film that I think goes down as one of Sandler’s worst (and that’s saying something).

Where do I begin when a movie is this terrible? How about with the opening scene which clearly tells you what you are in store for. Sandler wakes up one morning to find a huge deer in his bedroom. He scares the deer causing it to urinate all over his face. This sequence is out of the blue, amateurish, and embarrassingly unfunny. Actually that’s a good way to describe this entire movie. I know Sandler has a following and many people subscribe to this brand of humor, but I would rather have my eyeballs dug out with an ice cream scoop than to sit through this torture again.

There are so many egregious problems with this movie. Let’s start with the biggest issue – it’s not the slightest bit funny. I may be wrong but the object of most comedies is to make the audience laugh. If that is a key measurement of success “Grown Ups 2” fails miserably. I sat stone-faced through the majority of the film’s 100 minutes only slightly grinning on a couple of occasions. The humor is ostensibly juvenile and astoundingly idiotic. Sandler and his co-writing compadres seem to have no idea on how to conceive or setup a gag. Instead they wallow in cheap, lazy, and overused nonsense that have become signatures of Adam Sandler movies. For example take Sandler’s infatuation with toilet humor. We get farting, urinating, projectile vomiting, picking and eating from a belly button. All of this lowbrow garbage that serves as a substitute for actual good writing.

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Another glaring flaw is the complete and utter lack of a plot. I’m still stunned at the absence of any cohesive and coherent story. It’s kind of like a series of poorly conceived comedy sketches pasted together to form a storyline. The problem is nothing ever happens. It’s as if Sandler is more interested in creating a playground for him and his buddies. He tosses in several weird and awkward cameos and small roles from the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Taylor Lautner, Dan Patrick, and several more. Perhaps the filmmakers thought that drowning us in these appearances would divert our attention away from the absence of a decent narrative. It didn’t work.

I suppose Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, and Kevin James were trying to make another movie about childhood buddies and their middle-aged lives. Yet it’s interesting that these characters have become more childish and imbecilic in the three years since the first film. But I don’t think anyone involved really cares. There’s no sense of shame whatsoever. With an $80 million budget, this was clearly a cash-in for the whole bunch.

Remember I described the first scene of the movie? Well the final scene features a man passing gas on his wife. Do you get the gist of what “Grown Ups 2” is all about? This film incited more facepalms and head-shakes than laughs and the script feels like something Sandler could have scribbled on the palm of his hand. There isn’t an ounce of creativity, originality, or intelligence and if they weren’t making millions of dollars I would be embarrassed for everyone involved. Instead they are laughing all the way to the bank, and I promise you they were laughing a lot more than I was.

VERDICT – 0.5 STARS

“GROWN UPS” – 1 STAR

I kinda knew what I was getting into when I decided to watch Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups”. Sandler hasn’t put out a good movie in years and his films have become cheap, lazy, and formulaic. As I expected, “Grown Ups” is no different. It’s a tedious and unfunny movie that provides more moans and head-shakes than laughs. It’s a lame and juvenile exercise in banality that again proves that Sandler’s once promising career is on the ropes.

Sandler teams up with Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock, and Rob Schneider to play five childhood friends who are reunited after the death of their old junior high basketball coach. After attending the funeral, the five take their families to a lake house for the 4th of July weekend in hopes of catching up. Of course none are completely forthcoming about their lives and instead choose to impress their friends by making things seem better than they really are. Each bring along their own quirky baggage including a nagging mother-in-law, maladjusted children, and a 70-year old wife. Each are played for laughs but none are even remotely funny. Of course families come together, friendships are rekindled, and audiences are bludgeoned to death with one stupid, rehashed gag after another.

Sandler co-wrote and co-produced this mess and he doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie he wants to make here. The movie jumps back-and-forth between family friendly and filthy bathroom comedy with neither being effective. He employs so many of the same cheap and overused gags that have become commonplace in Adam Sandler movies. We get fart jokes. We get urine jokes. We even get lowbrow breast milk jokes. “Grown Ups” pulls out all the stops to try to cover up its appallingly poor writing. You name the gimmick and you’ll probably find it here.

I was also taken back by Sandler’s sometimes shameless uses of the children in the film. In the movie, one boy is 4-years old but still breast feeds. There are several scenes involving breastfeeding with the child present and numerous lines of dialogue that calls for the boy to say all sorts of crude things about it. I’m not trying to say I’m the end-all, be-all when it comes to determining what’s proper for a child or even for what passes as funny. But this really felt wrong and it certainly wasn’t funny. Sandler doesn’t show much more respect for the other child actors but at least they are older and don’t feel quit as exploited.

There is absolutely nothing genuine about “Grown Ups”. The characters feel fake. The relationships feel fake. The attempts at humor certainly feel fake. Even when the movie tries to drum up some emotion and sentiment it feels completely forced and fabricated.  None of the actors really sell their character. Kevin James comes the closest but even he is a mixture of numerous characters we have seen before. Even the wives are shallow and one-dimensional and contribute their fair share of cringe-worthy scenes. The material is so bad that it’s impossible to invest in anyone or believe in anything you’re seeing on-screen.

When it comes down to it “Grown Ups” is yet another sloppy, adolescent “comedy” and another red mark on Adam Sandler’s resume. There’s absolutely nothing to take away from the movie and I could think of a thousand things I would rather do than sit through it again. This begs the question, how on earth did this monstrosity gross over $270 million worldwide? Is this really the best Hollywood can do? Do people really find this stuff funny? Who knows, maybe I’m the one who is out of the loop on this one.

“JACK AND JILL” – 1 STAR

Adam Sandler has become a machine that produces what seems like an endless number of garbage comedies. Whether he’s the lead actor, writer, or producer, his movies feel like retreads that hit many of the same notes and feature the same sloppy filmmaking. In “Jack and Jill” his one attempt at originality has him playing dual roles as brother and sister. Then again it’s hard to call it original when everyone from Tyler Perry to Jean-Claude Van Damme have done it. But here Sandler manages to create one of the most obnoxious and unfunny characters to go with this obnoxious and unfunny film.

Sandler plays Jack, a Los Angeles advertising executive who has made a good life for himself. He’s married to Erin (Katie Holmes) and has two eccentric children. Each year at Thanksgiving his compulsive, neurotic twin sister Jill (also played by Sandler) comes to visit from New York. Jill drives Jack (and the audience) crazy with her quirkiness and bizarre behavior even though his wife and kids are crazy about her. Al Pacino plays himself in what could be defined as the low point of his career. He’s completely unhinged and over-the-top as evident by his infatuation with Jill. There’s also a host of cameos ranging from Regis Philbin to Shaquille O’Neal. None of them add much to the movie with the exception of Johnny Depp who provides a couple of the film’s few laughs.

“Jack and Jill” bombards us with overused sight gags, pathetically lame dialogue, and tons of boring comedic clichés. Apparently farts, diarrhea, and armpits are still funny in Sandler’s world and he’s so kind to give us so many of them. But in many ways he has to rely on that nonsense since there is nothing redeeming about the script. It’s pure laziness and there isn’t enough here to even make for a satisfying SNL skit much less a full length movie. There’s also a shamelessly large amount of product placements in this film that did more to make this movie feel like one big cash grab by everyone involved.

Then there’s Jill, a character that is so cartoonish it’s impossible to find a real human quality in her. She’s so outlandish that once the movie tries for sympathy and sentiment it feels like a complete fabrication. And I never saw Jill as anything more than Adam Sandler in drag. She’s certainly not interesting or convincing and she has absolutely no charm whatsoever. She’s like fingernails on a chalkboard and I found myself just wishing she would shut up. And since the biggest joke of the movie is Sandler dressed as a woman, it’s complete and utter ineffectiveness is the ultimate death knell.

I can only remember two scenes that got any kind of laugh out of me. Everything else in “Jack and Jill” is mind-numbingly bad. This is one of those movies that should have been an automatic bomb at the theaters but somehow made almost $150 million. Is this what we’ve grown to call comedy? I understand that comedy and humor is subjective. But how can such poor conception and shoddy filmmaking get a pass? And what on earth is Al Pacino doing here? Does he need money this bad? Early in his career, Adam Sandler made some pretty funny films. But now he’s a one-trick pony who seems more interested in dollar signs than the quality of the movie. Even worse, “Jack and Jill” may be the worst movie on his resume and that’s saying a lot.