Hitman Ashton misses the target
Killers, Cert 12A:CONFUSION reigns in the writing parlour of this romantic "comedy" that smacks of a project that has been adjusted ad nauseum following test screenings.
Katherine Heigl is the recently dumped Jen Kornfeldt, who meets Ashton Kutcher's international spy Spencer Aimes on the French Riviera. He decides Heigl is the perfect reason to ditch the espionage and settle down -- though without telling her of his past. Three years later, the two are happily married until Kutcher has a price put on his head and has to fight off assassins while saying to his less-than-impressed wife the old line, "I can explain".
Kutcher, a star of gossamer-thin charisma, is not credible as a hitman. His are the muscles of the underwear model rather than the wiry steel of a Jason Bourne. Even just holding a gun looks wrong in Kutcher's hands. Heigl, meanwhile, slips further into mediocrity with an autopilot turn as the modern, dithering US babe that may as well have been transplanted straight from Knocked Up, The Ugly Truth et al.
In their orbit is a selection of decidedly unfunny side characters. Among them, the usually reliable Catherine O'Hara, who can do little with a script like this except give a low-wattage performance as Heigl's inappropriate mother. Tom Selleck is similarly uninspired as the dad who suspects something's up.
Killers' main handicap is that it has no idea what it's meant to be. Here, it's trying to be a Mr & Mrs Smith for the MTV generation. There, it tries out the dunderheaded Judd Apatow school of laughs. Throw in slapstick, combat action and gooey, Snow Patrol-themed romance and by the end you're feeling not so much confused as insulted.
Killers is now showing
DIRECTOR Jorma Taccone's comedy spoof MacGruber represents Tinseltown's latest attempt to prove it still has a future. MacGruber sports a mullet, he's a "real American hero" and, naturally, any similarity with a cheesy Eighties TV show called MacGyver is purely intentional.
Stop me if you've heard this before (or seen Rambo parody Hot Shots! Part Deux) but our first encounter with the hapless hero played by Will Forte sees him hiding out in an isolated South American monastery where this ace secret agent has spent the past 10 years in silent contemplation. His withdrawal from civilisation was prompted by a personal tragedy -- his bride-to-be was detonated by nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) at their wedding ceremony. The bad news for just about everyone is that the latter has got his hands on a nuclear warhead and is hell-bent on global destruction.
Enter the delightfully deadpan Powers Boothe as the army colonel tasked with tracking MacGruber down and persuading him to come out of retirement. It isn't long before the power ballads are pumping as MacGruber and his less than crack team, the splendidly named Vicki St Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and a revelatory Ryan Phillippe, set about thwarting the evil designs of the thugtastic Von Cunth.
MacGruber started out as a sketch on that iconic US comedy show Saturday Night Live and while it has some very funny moments, too many misfires remain in the mix to make it a bona fide must-see. The first Wayne's World or the original Airplane it ain't, but comedy connoisseurs are still likely to feel as if they've got decent bang for their buck.
MacGruber is now showing
When in Rome
ONE look at Josh Duhamel's handsome face on the posters and you can hazard a guess that When in Rome is not designed as a treatise on anything too deep. Sure enough, what ensues for 91 minutes is something designed for female teens and tweens on rainy school holidays. Bar the cameo-bestowing elder lemons Anjelica Huston, Danny de Vito and Don Johnson, the film is populated by a cast more familiar from US TV shows and follows a well worn rom-com path.
When in Rome sets out its stall early, Gossip Girl's Kristen Bell plays Beth, sensible career girl who has been stung in love before. Her impetuous little sister is marrying an Italian she met on a plane two weeks ago, and after ruining the reception Beth gets hammered, gets into a fountain, gives out to the statue and steals some coins. It's stage Italian of the worst kind, Darby O'Gilla and-a the Little-a People-a, and the legend-a has it that in taking the coins she also takes the love they represent. Sure enough she ends up being pursued by five men, Nick (Duhamel), whom she wants, and four others she doesn't, including Danny de Vito and Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder.
Duhamel and Bell are very watchable, they're both good-looking and likeable, although he has much more comic ease. But the plot is so predictable, the writing so weak -- how have these stalking caricatures found her? -- the comedy so blunt and the soundtrack so horrible that the stars, by far the best thing in it, deserve better.
When in Rome opens Friday
Our Family Wedding
THE wedding comedy has established itself as a rom-com sub-genre with the use of a handful of repeatedly used motifs -- bossy parents, clashing in-laws and last-minute cold feet. Our Family Wedding, the latest addition to the brand, unfortunately does nothing to tamper with the formula.
Lucia (Ugly Betty herself America Ferrera) and Marcus (Lance Gross) are a young mixed-race couple being bullied relentlessly by their over-bearing families on the eve of their big day. A simple announcement of their intentions is rendered stressful when fathers Forest Whitaker (miscast) and Carlos Mencia (workmanlike) decide to spend their entire time bickering and wrestling, both using thinly veiled racism as the basis of their mutual resentment.
In between the tiresome squabbling, the two men are forced to look at their own romantic relationships and make amends. Predictably, the whole thing climaxes with trite and offensive depictions of Hispanic and African-American cultures on the wedding dance floor. Even before we've reached this point, both peoples have been caricatured relentlessly, racial prejudice has been made a comic device and Laos is made fun of for having a funny name and being, well, somewhere outside the US. It's like Obama-mania never happened.
There are one or two laughs along the way. One scene involving a goat and a tub of Viagra is surreal if not actually hilarious, while the bride's battle-axe abuela (Lupe Ontiveros) would have stolen the show had there been any challengers to steal it from.
Our Family Wedding is now showing