Mini-Reviews: Jeff Who Lives At Home, American Reunion, Casa De Mi Padre
In an attempt to give readers my feelings on films as I plug away on a number of writing assignments, I’ll provide mini-reviews to give my succinct opinion on films and to give me time to finish my other projects.
Jeff Who Lives At Home:
I’m inclined to believe opinions will vary wildly for Jeff Who Lives At Home, the new film by the Duplass Brothers, based on one’s belief in fate vs. coincidence. Either you will buy into the Jason Segel storyline because you allow yourself to be transported by the magic of cinema into believing in a divine plan… or you’ll be annoyed at how these impossible coincidences keep occurring to these characters. I fell happily into the former category and found the film to be the sweetest Duplass entry to date. Jason Segel and Ed Helms are pitch-perfect together– I normally find Helms’ broad style of acting more sitcommy than cinematic, so I was especially impressed by the subtle way he played some of the more serious scenes. Though the Susan Sarandon subplot is predictable, twee, and seemingly unrelated to the main narrative, the film as a whole is a funny, warm-hearted meditation on faith and the signs the universe provides for you.
In a summer full of sequels, it’s hard to imagine one with less clamor for its existence than American Reunion. While its premise is humorously indifferent to logic (the 13th year high school reunion!), the dialogue to humorously indifferent to humor. Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott are fair game in reprising their best roles, but the script simply does them no favors. Nostalgia is layered on thick, with a 1990s soundtrack and loads of ponderous “wasn’t high school great?” moments, in hopes of disguising a disjointed and cluttered narrative. The most welcome returns belong to the smallest roles– Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia, the Sherminator, and the MILF guys (one of whom, John Cho, may be the biggest movie star of the pack). Of course, the only real laughs belong to Eugene Levy, who slays me with a look; the end credits, which feature him on a date, get the biggest guffaws. The rest of the sequel simply doesn’t deliver the goods, baked or otherwise.
Casa De Mi Padre:
The best part about Casa De Mi Padre, unquestionably the silliest film from Will Ferrell since the original Anchorman, is how straight it is played. It rarely goes for verbal jokes, relying nearly exclusively on visual comedy to get by. Much of the dialogue is simple Spanish translated into subtitles (example: “I am jumping!”), and while the plot is obviously nothing new, you see a film like this for the style. Director Matt Piedmont goes less grindhouse than Robert Rodriguez went with Machete, but he includes some terrific painted sets, fake horseback rides, constant cigarette smoking, and great original music (can either “Casa De Mi Padre” or “Yo No Se” please get some early Oscar buzz?). It’s obviously not quotable, and even at 85 minutes, it feels about ten minutes too long for what is essentially a one-joke film… but they milk every laugh possible out of that joke. If Ferrell floats your boat, this is as sublimely goofy as he’s been in years, and it’s a shame that Blades of Glory and Semi-Pro got wider releases than this did. (Final note: this has the funniest sex scene since MacGruber.)