After Tagadella Nights I expected two things: a) another underwhelmingly unfunny Will Ferrell film; but b) John C. Reilly getting another chance to being the unexpected shining comedy light.
I didn’t count on the reuniting Anchorman pairing of Ferrell and director Adam McKay. I’ve not laughed so regularly throughout a film for a long time. This is comedy gold.
Puerile in the main, childish in others, there’s an energy and inventiveness, notably in some of the dialogue. Reilly’s love interest snags some belting lines, chief amongst is “Let’s do something illegal”, the consequences of which are top drawer laughs. There’s some fabulous enthusiasm in the cast as well, especially the always excellent Richard Jenkins.
Not everything works. The film missteps a little in the final 20 minutes. And there are misfiring gags – though the jokes come thick and fast to keep the laughs coming. If jokes were measured on goal difference, Step Brothers is healthily positive.
The final tears of joy come after the initial bout of end credits, retribution that’s likely to attract tuts from hyper sensitive Daily Mail types, while elicting whoops from kung-fu flick fans. I won’t be able to see a merry-go-round again without imagining the violent potential. It’s a more fitting end than the pre-credits whimsy, for sure.
I hate “rom-coms”. I hate the compartmentalised phrase and I also hate the popularist crap that comes wrapped up as a “rom-com”. I don’t have a problem with romance or comedy. More when the two are together and it’s always done so badly. Romance when handled delicately and not descending into full-on whimsy is fine. Comedy – well, should make you laugh. “Rom-coms” usually shaft up both of these. There’s been promising films that have the mix right but end up halfway through losing the rom or the com, and thereon in it’s bore-dom. Perfect examples of how to combine romance and comedy: Annie Hall and There’s Something About Mary, both adopting different comedic approaches (simple and the not-so-simple). Romance and comedy. End of.
(500) Days of Summer (and, my, those brackets are going to annoy me if I keep quoting the title) has been pushed as a quirky rom-com in “chick” mags and the like, despite its trailer trying to clarify matters. Yes, there’s comedy, there’s romance but this isn’t for the masses. Hell, the fact this is flagged up with the opening line of trailer – “I love the Smiths” – enough to alienate and have viewers scratching their heads in equal measure. Fair play. It captured me.
(The sceptic in me thinks a studio exec saw the script and felt that the film could appeal to that “college educated” demographic, an audience slightly younger than the one that lapped up the excellent Stephen Frears Hollywoodisation of High Fidelity. The romantic in me still holds hope that this demographic stuff wasn’t uttered in any exec meeting, but let’s be frank: it’s a niche in the market etc etc.)
Mates who went to see it came back stating the obvious, it’d be my thing because of the music. Let’s face it, the Smiths and Belle & Sebastian moments are gone early on. From then on there’s a couple of records covers and Joseph Gordon-Levitt wearing some mighty fine headphones. It’s not about the musical references – a film needs more than that to be a rewarding complete picture. Good job (500) Days reveals itself to be a very smartly written and imaginative study of human relationships, and surprisingly the failures of romance and its resultant knocks to the male ego. OK, the people involved are a little quirky (he-llo typecast Zoey Deschanel!) and they have an alt perspective on matters, but it’s not dreary introspection and you can relate to these characters.
Ideas wise it’s astutely observed and there are some outstanding sequences. The ordering, the film flitting back and forth through the 500 days. The trip to Ikea. The couple’s first kiss. The “expectation” versus “reality” section. When Gordon-Levitt’s character tries capturing the attention of Deschanel’s with music turned up in the office. One scene aside (Gordon-Levitt’s outburst leading to him leaving his job) it’s never seems forced, moving with a relaxed confidence. With its slight fold-in of different styles and examination of relationships, (500) Days makes for a comfortable bedfellow for Marc Forster’s overlooked and underrated Stranger Than Fiction.
And it’s honest enough that you let it get away with a sweet ending that leaves you with a smile, not reaching for the bucket like your traditional Hollywood rom-com fare. Not happily ever after, but certainly another opportunity, just like real life.
Ten minutes in and I couldn’t tell what the fuck was going on. For all the good it would have done someone might as well waved some Christmas tree lights and bits of tin foil in front of me, while shouting into my ear (as loud as they could) “BOOM!”, “BANG!” and “CRASH!”. While turning the lights in the room ON and OFF.
And so it continued, the LOUD and FAST bits broken up by some weak attempts at humour while trying desperately to lift the characters from the first dimension.
Later on something meaningful happens: the American flag gets knocked off a man-made structure by some evil robot. Deep.
And the pyramids in Egypt? For decades we have been wrong. Something to do with robots that were here thousands of years ago. Why oh why didn’t Egyptologists just look that little bit further instead of falling for that bandaged corpse red herring. Fools. They deserved to be cursed.
Still, plenty of teenage boys will have got boners from all the teenage girls on show. And the dads will have been fantastising about doing it with Megan Fox. And loads of toys will have been sold. Magic.
Like I said, obviously stupid. “Directed by Michael Bay” after all.