Movie Review ~ Single All the Way

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter convinces his best friend Nick to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mother sets him up on a blind date with her handsome trainer James, the plan goes awry.

Stars: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Luke Macfarlane, Jennifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy, Jennifer Robertson, Barry Bostwick

Director: Michael Mayer

Rated: NR

Running Length: 99 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: During the throes of the coronavirus, I became somewhat of a Hallmark Christmas movie afficionado, so I know from sappy holiday entertainment.  There’s a specific formula to these films and it never changes.  This makes them predictable and safe, easy viewing to decorate your house and tree to but rarely the kind of project you truly stop what you’re doing and pay rapt attention.  This is no dig to the actors (though some of them do have a particular Canadian, um, charm) but instead is a tribute to their consistent uniformity which gives us a happy ending when a least one woman in a red dress kisses one man…but only at the very end, and after someone has drank hot cocoa and sung “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” 

One thing that hasn’t been explored much until recently are stories from different viewpoints, representing the true world and multi-whatever families that exist.  Hanukkah movies now show up, movies specifically for black audiences are available, and there are also offerings for gay and lesbian fans as well.  Last year Hulu released the delightful comedy The Happiest Season and several networks had their own films featuring gay couples or storylines.  This year, Netflix gets into the game with its high-profile comedy Single All the Way, a bit of light Christmas fun that may not be fresh as fallen snow but is as warm and inviting as your favorite grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve. 

Working as a specialist in social media (they have those now? Oh yes, yes, they do) Peter (Michael Urie) is based in Los Angeles getting ready to head back to his New Hampshire hometown for the holidays. This year, he’s finally able to get the meddling family members constantly trying to change his single status off his back thanks to a good-looking doctor boyfriend…who turns out to be a dud.  Sweettalking long term roommate Nick (Philemon Chambers) into saying they finally made it official as partners, they can’t even get the lie out before Peter’s mom (Kathy Najimy, Hocus Pocus) announces that she’s performed a Christmas miracle and set Peter up with the town’s newest eligible gay bachelor…the hot new trainer/ski instructor at the local gym.

With Peter testing the waters with hunky James (Luke Macfarlane), Nick realizes the feelings he has for his roommate are actually more like love and if he doesn’t move fast he may lose everything.  When Peter contemplates moving back to New Hampshire, his two young cousins rally the rest of the family to meddle against him being with James and instead recognizing that he really needs to be with Nick.  As the Christmas pageant organized by Peter’s outlandish Aunt Sandy (Jennifer Coolidge, Promising Young Woman, stealing every millisecond she’s on screen) draws near, can the two men realize that friends can be more and love is a risk worth taking?

Theatrical director Michael Mayer has helmed several low-key film projects over the years, most in the dramatic field but it’s no shocker that he works wonders with this spritely comedy that is a real gift for holiday watchers of all persuasions.  Even if Urie has made a career out of playing the same character over and over again, he’s perfected it by now and it works well for Single All the Way because Peter is not brittle nor is he too soft.  There’s a median line he walks and while he’s aggravating in his indecision at times, you do see it is coming from the right place of knowing he should be on a different path.  Philemon James is a standout, a solid co-star for Urie and even if he’s the obvious choice from the get-go, his unassuming nature makes his blossoming into a confident suitor all the more believable. 

I do question if it’s by the magic of Christmas we’re supposed to believe that Jennifer Robertson (another MVP actor, this time from Schitt’s Creek, relying on playing the same character again) is Najimy’s daughter but then again casting in these holiday movies is always a little fuzzy.  Mayer at least gets the second suitor perfect in Macfarlane, the openly gay actor makes for a dreamy option for Urie’s character and at times you may find yourself shouting at the screen when Urie bows out of future dates with him.  The rest of the cast is filled in nicely by an array of agreeable performances that let the stars shine – everyone just wisely stays out of the way of Coolidge because when she’s onscreen no one else is the focus. As it should be.

Is Single All the Way a film that’s going to be added to a yearly roster of Christmas titles?  Probably not, but then again none of these Hallmark-y films ever are for me, personally.  It’s still a wonderful, harmless option for those that tire of the same old gazebo ending and want to see more representation of the world as we all know it to be.  Also…I didn’t spot any fake foam snow and that’s always a plus!

Movie Review ~ The Guilt Trip

guilt_trip

The Facts:

Synopsis: As inventor Andy Brewster is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime, a quick stop at his mom’s house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride.

Stars: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Kathy Najimy, Colin Hanks, Adam Scott

Director: Anne Fletcher

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 95 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: As anyone who has taken a road trip can tell you, the worst part of the trek can be when you’ve run out of things to talk about and are annoyed with your travel mates. You resort to niceties and having polite conversations as a way to distract you from the fact you have hundreds or thousands of miles left in your journey. That’s a great description of The Guilt Trip, the joyless new film starring one Funny Lady and one Stoner Dude.

One of the most frustratingly polite films I’ve ever seen, The Guilt Trip logs a bunch of miles in its cinematic adventure but never gets out of the garage in terms of entertainment. The film reads like a sure-fire winner with the unlikely pairing of Streisand and Rogan as a mother and son who hit the road from New Jersey to California as she accompanies her offspring on a sales pitch trip. This is a film that has an Olympic-sized pool of comedy in front of it but only gets to the end of the diving board before turning around and running away.

Seeming to not want to offend absolutely anyone, it instead winds up being a one way trip to Dullsville courtesy of flat direction from Fletcher (The Proposal) and a wimpy script by Dan Fogelman. I can’t say for sure, but even if the script was written with Streisand in mind it had to have had a major overhaul when she signed up to remove some humor and not sully her pristine and purposeful image. There’s just no other way to explain why the film wouldn’t take advantage of some prime comedic opportunities that it ignores.

Ok…I did laugh a few times. The first was when we meet Streisand, dressed in a typical Jersey jumpsuit with her hair perfectly rumpled she looks every bit the middle aged character we think she should be…until she lifts her hand to touch her hair and reveals those immaculate French manicured nails. The woman reuses water bottles to save the environment but doesn’t have any trouble shelling out bucks to keep her nails nice? Streisand is so overly made up at times that at one point I leaned over to my friend and said “Man, the guy that got to play Streisand is doing a great job.”

Rogan doesn’t fare any better and he looks as uncomfortable in the role as he does in the numerous suits he is poured into. I think Rogan’s pot head persona is nearing the end of its fifteen minutes of fame so it’s possible this was a way to test the waters as a real person…and it’s a failure. His character is such a stubborn doofus that you can’t muster up any kind of sympathy for him. The reasons he asks his mother to go with him on the trip are unclear too…for a time it seems like he asks her along for his own personal benefit but then it changes in a way that makes the audience unclear as to what the purpose was from the start. The final explanation is that there was no real reason for her to come along…aside from the fact that a movie plot depended on it.

Now I can see where the film’s restraint in the comedy department can seem refreshing to those weaned on movies that make jokes at the expense of the defenseless (mothers, old people, fat people, etc) but if the film had any real soul to it I may have gone with it a bit more. It’s plain to see that the movie doesn’t have much going for it aside from its stars whose talents are wasted and a premise that should have been milked for all its worth.

For a movie that takes its stars across the country, it may surprise you to know that neither Streisand nor Rogan left the state due to Streisand’s wish to stay close to home. Scenes of Streisand and Rogan in front of the Grand Canyon look like an effect out of an amusement park photo booth and the endless scenes in cars look like they were filmed in the span of two days. It’s a damn shame that more effort wasn’t put into punching up the script because I’d have watched a movie with Streisand and Rogan stuck in a car if the material was good enough.

So many missed chances and so many laughless minutes…The Guilt Trip is a movie you may find yourself re-writing in your head as the movie is playing out in front of you. With so many far better films playing in theaters now, you’ll be taken a guilt trip of your own making if you see this before pretty much any other film in cinemas now.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Guilt Trip

Synopsis: An inventor and his mom hit the road together so he can sell his latest invention.

Release Date:  December 25, 2012

Thoughts: The script for The Guilt Trip must have been very, very good to lure Babs Streisand back to the big screen.  That or she needed the cash to pay for renovations to her house.  In any event, the trailer for The Guilt Trip looks to be for a film that will be irresistible to women of a certain age and men of a certain persuasion…but could lure a nice audience thanks to its comedy roots and holiday release.