Old School (2003)

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Three friends attempt to recapture their glory days by opening up a fraternity near their alma mater. (IMDb)
Call me a party-pooper, but it felt more enraging than funny watching Frank throw away his wife to live like a just-hit-puberty frat boy and Beanie pretty much do the same in spirit. Thank God for more level-headed Mitch (see his rant to Beanie), though in the end he isn’t quite enough to make the movie’s portrayal of stupidity (which does bring some decent laughs) anything more than a distasteful celebration of it. The third act with the misfits vs. uptight dean plot is slightly redeeming.
6/10 (Mediocre)
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Legally Blonde (2001)

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Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school, while she is there she figures out that there is more to her than just looks. (IMDb)
Plays up a lot of stereotypes–ditzy blonde only being one of them–but at least to the central one it offers a unique “both/and” response too: You can be both boy-crazy and a Harvard student; you can wear pink and be a serious lawyer (see Elle’s return to the courtroom); you can be smart and silly (see Elle’s mature grad speech ending with a squealed “We did it!”). Witherspoon, Wilson, and Coolidge with her side-romance with the handsome postman are all charming in this fluffy but pleasant flick.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Bottle Rocket (1996)

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Three friends plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run. (IMDb)

An average city simply filmed is the perfect setting for the outrageously funny escapades of a few friends (among them the Wilsons’ geeky Anthony–see his tagging along with his motel maid crush–and excitable ringleader Dignan–see his 75-year plan) acting out their romanticized idea of a life of crime (“On the run from Johnny Law…”), planning heists, wearing jumpsuits, etc. The motel middle act sags slightly, but a wacky caper (the absent-minded Kumar is a highlight) climaxes the film well.

7.9/10

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)

Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.

6.7/10

 

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship. (IMDb)

The screenplay here is fairly formulaic in structure as far as indie dramedys go, with cycles of music-video scenes of personal reflection or vague comedic resolve following those of conflict. That said, its execution is excellent (thanks to wonderfully genuine performances from Hader, Wiig, and Wilson), its central relationship unique (i.e. non-romantic), and its subject matter darker (albeit resolved in a disappointingly easy ending) which set it a step above many of its genre counterparts.

7.3/10