Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Power of Love
"I can't decide if it was funny or I thought it was funny because I was high" my friend Jessica asked me via text, after we'd both just walked out of the midnight show. It was funny. In fits and starts, and some people were more funny than others, but it was funny.
I suppose stoner action comedies might operate as if they were made by people who were high, and there's some of that in this film. There are also parts that are quite wonderful. For the first 75%, there's a relaxed reggae vibes to the scenes between action, and the action scenes are uneven but occasionally excellent. David Gordon Green, whose GEORGE WASHINGTON and ALL THE REAL GIRLS stand as two of the best original films of the decade, has no background to suggest he would knock this film out of the park, and he doesn't, quite. His style is largely sublimated, and this film largely consists of two shots and average cinematography, though he wrings some great performances and has a facility for broad comedy only touched upon in ATRG.
Those performances really are the true grace of the movie, in particular James Franco's Saul and Danny McBride's Red. Seth Rogen is fine in the lead, but I'm still not convinced he's not better as a satellite character. He's as good here though as he was in KNOCKED UP. McBride however has massive potential, too ugly to ever carry a picture, but maybe one day able to do what Will Ferrell only dreamed of. He reminds me a little bit of a slim Horatio Sanz, and I think we all know Sanz' real name is Talent.
Franco, for reasons unbeknownst to this filmmaking process, is the true treasure. Obviously far too good looking to be allowed his character acting immediately, he has finally found his nature. With his idiosyncratic shadings, he plays this role like, and I hate to say so, Heath Ledger would have. I took comfort that after a good 8 years of trying to make him a leading man, by playing a pot dealer in pajamas he has emerged as the greatest living actor of his generation, or at least moment. And he is, hands down, the funniest and most affecting person in the film.
Rosie Perez, last seen harassing Woody Harrelson, is also in the picture. She's completely wasted though, as is Gary Cole. Smarter writing would have made these two characters one character. Honestly who wouldn't rather be watching Rosie as the witchy head of a drug syndicate? The Asian villains who also factor into the nonsense are too broad. Maybe just by accident, but the rest of the picture feels real. Kevin Corrigan, who really could be the next Christopher Walken, manages to amuse with lines that are not amusing. Much of this film is hampered by the same thing that has hampered even the best films of the Farrelly Brothers- in a comedy, everyone should be funny. Enough with the straight-man hoody guys.
Unless, however, you want to aspire to be an all-time action comedy, like MIDNIGHT RUN or LETHAL WEAPON 2, in which case you'd probably reverse the lead roles and have a lot more shootouts. When the third act comes, and fuck HANCOCK, it's the worst third act I've seen all year, I can't be sure whether this film is a parody, an homage, or a continuation of action excess. Frankly, HOT FUZZ did it much better.
Still, it's really really really funny. Like its forbearer and spiritual cousin, SUPERBAD, this film's first act is pure bliss. While we discover the characters rhythms and become lulled by their speech patterns, it reaches heights of scatological and drugged-out perfection. Rogen and Evan Goldberg are excellent writers of dialogue, and will one day I'm sure write a great screenplay. In the film's best scene, perfectly capturing what it feels like to grow up and still be a loser, Rogen's Dale returns to high school to visit his girlfriend, and gets into what he thinks is a pissing contest with a hot young stud who apparently does a great Jeff Goldblum impersonation. It's a scene that ultimately falls short, like the film. A Jeff Goldbum impersonation is something magical, like saying you've been to Africa. You don't tease with it.