Fine cast are all switched on
SEVEN years ago, Kassie Larson (Jennifer Aniston) opted to soothe her biological clock by getting pregnant via a donor, a role for which she selected Roland (Patrick Wilson).
At a party to celebrate her impregnation her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), who has been carrying a silent torch since their attempt at being romantic failed six years earlier, gets hammered drunk, disposes of Roland's donation and provides his own -- an act he doesn't remember the morning after, or when Kassie says she is pregnant.
She moves away then returns with her nearly six-year-old son and embarks on a relationship with Roland, the man she believes is the child's father. Wally isn't pleased, but he and child have a bond that makes his memory come back: how can he break this news to Kassie?
No matter how bad Wally feels about what he did, or how drunk he was, there is something deeply disturbing about the premise. He hasn't the guts to tell her he loves her, she doesn't ask him to be the donor, but he hijacks her womb none the less. Roland is the nice guy, but he's made out to be a spanner. Throw in the fact that the son is a spoilt brat and there are some very dodgy elements here.
In order to enjoy The Switch you have to overlook the traits Wally shares with a psychopath. And the creepy child. Aniston at this stage is typecast, and plays the role herself with enthusiasm, though it's Bateman's show. Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum sneak in thunder-stealing performances. The cast saves the film from its weak script and although it holds no surprises in terms of ending, it gets there surprisingly well.
'The Switch' is now showing
Dinner for Schmucks
FEW things divide opinions like comedy. What leaves one person helpless with mirth leaves another baffled, and Dinner For Schmucks is dividing opinion as much as most. Tim (Paul Rudd) wants a promotion, and finds that as part of his plan he has to attend the boss's monthly dinner where there is a competition to bring along the most bizarre, amusing or tragic person they can find. Tim sees the dodgy morals of this, his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) sees them even more clearly, but what ambitious young man could resist when fate throws mouse taxidermist Barry (Steve Carell) in his path?
In another case of the cast saving the movie from awfulness, Carell imbues his weirdo with humanity, Rudd plays the straight man well, while around them a mixy-matchy thing goes on, with flashes of ridiculous comedy, buddy movie, sexual farce and satire of rich people all showing with some bizarre moral at the end.
This identity crisis is no doubt in part due to it being based on a 1998 French film, Le Diner de Cons; how much to take and how much to remake always causes confusion. Another difficulty is that comedies that attempt to set up comedy within their comedy tend to get it horribly wrong. The film is too long but has some good scenes and some good lines. Fans of the genre will probably go by Carell and Rudd's past work (and director Jay Roach who made a couple of Austin Powers movies and Meet the Parents/Fockers) as a general guideline, and should be pleased.
'Dinner for Schmucks' is
Take the whip-smart spoofery of Nineties sketch show In Living Color and mix it with the blaxploitation films of the Seventies and you've got this none-more-Black parody from Scott Sanders. The laughs come thick and fast from the off, with Black Dynamite having full awareness of its shoddy production values and OTT acting.
Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight) is the title's muscle-bound hero, opening can after can of whoop-ass in his mission to find his brother's killer and rid the streets of a nasty new drug that is claiming orphans and emasculating his African-American brothers. He's also the original Mr Luva-Luva, but meets his match in community worker Salli Richardson (I Am Legend) who tries and ultimately fails to resist his alpha-macho moves. Oh, he's also a former CIA agent, is handy with a nunchuck and often refers to himself in the third person.
Black Dynamite is very good at looking and being rubbish. Bar one or two gags that go on a tad too long, it finds any way it can to take the wee out of itself. This includes amplifying the fashions of the time -- afros, spectacular shirt collars, sideburns like bear paws -- as well as the loose filmmaking of the blaxploitation genre. A microphone boom is just visible above White's head in one scene, while camera shots stay on their subjects just a millisecond too long, showing the "actor" slip out of character.
The spring in the film's step is provided by Adrian Younge's brilliant soundtrack, a litany of funk-tastic Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes pastiches.
Deliriously silly but boxing clever, this is likely to spawn a rake of imitators.
'Back Dynamite' is now