Maxwell Smart, a highly intellectual but bumbling spy working for the CONTROL agency, is tasked with preventing a terrorist attack from rival spy agency KAOS. (IMDb)
A few standout funny bits (I nearly cried laughing at that perfect in-tree cameo), a few standout not-funny bits (the fat jokes and xenophobia didn’t sit well), but mostly just a breezy and easily-consumable action comedy with a unique lead (Carrell’s dry delivery really works well with a character that’s sometimes the butt of the jokes, and sometimes making the jokes), good central odd-couple chemistry, and solid action sequences. Bonus points for the pacifist conflict resolve on the rooftop.
The intertwined stories of four generations of Coopers unfold right before the annual family reunion on Christmas Eve. (IMDb)
A cliche multiple-narrative dysfunctional family script is made nearly unbearable by the omniscient narration (by the family dog, somehow, and for some reason) spoon-feeding you what the acting and visuals should just be showing you (though some things are still left unclear-like Ruby and Bucky’s relationship). Some interesting editing choices (see the quick flashbacks) and asides (see the great Santa montage) get points for trying to do something different, even if they come off as contrived.
A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new “street magician” steals his thunder. (IMDb)
Burt’s journey from innocent kid to arrogant/tragic adult and back (figuratively) is a little choppy and unfounded, but compelling, and offers decent comedy (see his hot-box antics, solo two-man trick) to go with a few sweet moments (see his magic show with Rance at the care home) and fun tricks (see the crazy climax). Buscemi’s oft-neglected Anton (see his third-wheel moment at the motel), Carrey’s hardcore rival magician, and Gandolfini’s self-absorbed hotel owner are fun secondary characters.
A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus. (IMDb)
The excellent opening sequence here gives us an immediate feel for each character, setting the stage for an achingly beautiful and genuine film family portrait with a powerful message of authenticity over perfection. The film epitomizes the dramedy genre; each aspect blends naturally with the other in favour of story and character development instead of cheap laughs and sentimentality, but I’ll never not cry happy tears during the climactic scene of this wonderfully-written and well-acted movie.
One would think that an old guy buddy movie featuring these three talents would be entertaining, but it was not to be in this flick. It’s dry and boring with few redeeming elements. The story drags (and there isn’t much of it to begin with), their joyride exploits really aren’t all that funny or entertaining, and the spark of intriguing crime drama never becomes a flame. Any dialogue that might’ve made up for the lack of plot excitement is unmemorable and contrived. A disappointment.