31 Days to Scare ~ Night Teeth

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A college student moonlighting as a chauffeur picks up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. But when he uncovers their bloodthirsty intentions – and their dangerous, shadowy underworld – he must fight to stay alive.

Stars: Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, Raúl Castillo, Alfie Allen, Alexander Ludwig, Sydney Sweeney, Megan Fox

Director: Adam Randall

Rated: NR

Running Length: 107 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  If I haven’t said it enough already in the last few months, let me say it unequivocally: Netflix is truly running circles around the other streaming services (and Hollywood studios) in bringing back the pleasingly retro films that were made for mass appeal consumption in theaters two decades ago…but with a modern eye.  Already scoring this summer and again earlier this month with resurrections of the teen slasher film (the Fear Street trilogy {1994, 1978, 1666}, and There’s Someone Inside Your House), they’ve now got a sleek and stylish vampire flick on their hands, and I sure hope they treat it better than they did another one they unjustly ignored in July.  That would be Blood Red Sky, a wild action film that can be summarized bluntly as ‘vicious vampires on a hijacked plane’ but is way, way more insane that that.  The L.A. set Night Teeth is less in your face but every bit as entertaining in the way it unfolds at its own pace, benefitting from a charismatic cast and a sleek production overseen by director Adam Randall.

I’ve loved vampire movies ever since I can remember, voraciously reading all that I could, going as “Generic Vampire with Cape” for Halloween during my formative years more than a few times, and seeing every fanged flick that came out…but there’s a stumbling block I’ve found with each new one that arises up from its coffin.  With so many variations to the vampire lore, the rules are always changing so no two groups of bloodsuckers are ever quite the same.  Usually, this is just an excuse for lazy writers to work around small budgets, tiny talent, or miniscule creative input but first-time writer Brent Dillon finds an interesting morsel of a hook to set the stage for the events of Night Teeth that felt unforced for once. 

Turf wars have led to a long-standing rivalry between different tribes of vampires in and around the Los Angeles area.  As part of a truce enacted, tribes were expected to never feed on the unwilling, stay in their own neighborhoods, and never cross into the realm of another without being expressly invited…and that rarely happens.  Making sure the night hunters keep to their word is a band of human protectors and at the opening of Night Teeth it’s Jay (Raúl Castillo, Wrath of Man) one of these guards. that first realizes one tribe is about to start something big when he and his girlfriend come face to face with Victor (Alfie Allen, John Wick), a creepy leader for a tribe that isn’t known for playing nice.  It’s nearly sunrise, though, so any more action will have to wait for later that evening. 

Meanwhile, Jay’s brother Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Bumblebee) is a college student trying to make ends meet while dreaming of becoming a music producer.  Living with his grandmother and occasionally seeing Jay pop in, he’s a tad sheltered and doesn’t get out much. After overhearing Jay’s heated phone exchange, Benny convinces his unusually distracted older brother to let him fill in at his car service job to make some extra cash.  Posing as Jay, he sets out for a supposedly easy night chauffeuring for just one booking but after meeting the beautiful Blaire (Debby Ryan, The Opening Act) and her vixen-ish pal Zoe (Lucy Fry, Vampire Academy) he’ll wish he stayed home and finished mixing his latest demo track.  Because these are deadly dames.

Writer Dillon and director Randall keep most of Night Teeth tight and taut, never letting what could start to feel repetitious (Benny takes the women to a series of parties/locales where they enact some carnage in service to Victor’s plot to take over the L.A. scene) get too stale by the third round.  There are enough interesting things going on with Benny slowly discovering what’s going on after a few stops and characters that refreshingly aren’t obnoxious toxics so you want to remain engaged.  Usually in these movies a couple is thrown together just for some standard romantic entanglement but in Night Teeth the chemistry feels genuine, another piece that works for the overall benefit of its success.  I liked the energy Ryan and Fry were putting out there and enjoy even more what Lendeborg was giving back to them in return.

I don’t say it often but even at nearly two hours, the movie is just as long as it needs to be.  I’m not sure if I would have cut out anything because this was far more enjoyable than even the souped-up preview would have you believe.  I could have even done with more of certain aspects, like the all-too brief cameos of Megan Fox (Till Death) and Sydney Sweeney (Nocturne) as mavens of one tribe who realize far too late they’ve underestimated a rival.  For all you Fox fans that may be coming to this one expecting your queen to play a significant role…don’t expect too much.  If I tell you she only had one day of filming, does that give you an idea of what you’ll be getting?

While this might pair nice with Blood Red Sky for a double dose of vampire mayhem, double sides of Netflix’s most polished bloodsucking coin, I’d suggest you check out Randall’s previous film as well.  I See You came out in 2019 and is a sneaky little horror nugget that gets under your skin far more than you might think.  Like Night Teeth, it’s made with generous amount of style but doesn’t let any kind of flare overwhelm the necessary storytelling.  Do make the effort to sink your chompers into Night Teeth, especially to show Netflix these kinds of movies are valued and encourage them to make more!

 

Movie Review ~ Midnight in the Switchgrass

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The Facts:

Synopsis: While in Florida on another case, FBI agents cross paths with a state cop who is investigating a string of female murders that appear to be related. When an undercover sting goes horribly wrong, it plunges the team into grave danger and pitting them against a serial killer in a twisted game of cat and mouse.

Stars: Megan Fox, Bruce Willis, Emile Hirsch, Lukas Haas, Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly), Caitlin Carmichael, Sistine Stallone

Director: Randall Emmett

Rated: R

Running Length: 99 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:  I think we all need to stop and have some kind of memorial service for the Bruce Willis we once knew.  The Bruce Willis of the 1980’s and 1990’s who gave us some of the most memorable action movies out there.  The risk-taking Bruce Willis who went blonde for Luc Besson in The Fifth Element and went in the buff for Richard Rush in Color of Night.  This was the Bruce Willis married to Demi Moore who was part owner of Planet Hollywood and looked like he enjoyed making movies and being a member of the Hollywood A-List.  Scanning over the last several years of films on the IMDb credits for Willis, it’s clear this version of him is gone.

It’s hard to even call what Willis is doing in Midnight in the Switchgrass acting because he’s basically “present” in the film more than anything.  Sitting most of the time and only standing/moving in blink and you missed it moments, Willis has made a habit of this type of show-up-and-speak kind of roles that represent a sorry state of affairs for the actor that used to have so much pull in Hollywood.  If Midnight in the Switchgrass had been a better movie, this type of appearance might be just a minor bummer because you’d wish Willis had wanted to participate more.  Sadly, the movie is resoundingly terrible and now the lack of energy Willis shows in his appearance only signals what the audience will feel after sitting through this ungainly schlock which never figures out who the star is or what mood it wants to set.

Someone is abducting vulnerable women and leaving their bodies (not in the switchgrass!) along various roadways.  Pretty early on in Alan Horsnail’s leaden script, we find out that someone is truck driver/family man Peter (Lukas Haas, First Man, forever trying to extricate himself from his baby-faced child acting days) and his ugly, backward attitudes toward women (the ones he kills and otherwise) are laid on so thick you wonder if Horsnail is making a point or just exacerbating one.  His latest catch wanders out in a drug haze from a motel that also happens to be the site of an FBI sting operation originally set to trap him – what a coincidence.

Though she purposely set out to trap Peter, beautiful (but tough!) FBI agent Rebecca (Megan Fox, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) instead nabs a disgusting pimp (the equally disgusting Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly, Fox’s real-life boyfriend) and their grueling matching of {nit}wits make an already lengthy first act set-up that much longer.  Sitting out in the car listening to all this and constantly threatening to “come in there!” is Karl (Willis, Glass), Rebecca’s partner who thinks she’s playing with fire tempting a killer out of hiding.

Also looking for the killer is state police office Byron (Emile Hirsch, The Autopsy of Jane Doe), who arrives at the scene of a victim and makes some stunning conclusions on motive and method having seen ¼ of the crime scene.  After promising the mother of the victim that he’ll find the killer, after sitting through her looooong story that is only important because it gives us the title reference, he ditches all other responsibilities (and his weepy wife played by Here After’s Jackie Cruz in a thankless role) and eventually teams up with Rebecca to track Peter down.  Doing some good old fashioned detective work, the film hits some sort of mild stride when the younger cops work together, only to be quickly flattened by a drawn-out finale that just sort of slumps over and gives up.

Director Randall Emmett makes his feature directorial debut after producing, wait for it, 119 movies, the bulk of those within the last 10 years.  Even the most prolific producer can’t have quality control over 20 good movies over 10 years…so that should tell you why there are multiple gaffes in the film, evidence of a shoddy production where even relatively smart actors like Fox and Hirsch get tripped up every now and then.  Recently on a redemptive streak and scoring in Till Death just a few weeks back, Fox is dragged down by the man in her life (Machine Gun Kelly) and her scene partner (Willis), both of whom give her little to work with.  When she’s left to her own devices, the movie at least gets somewhat interesting.  Hirsch oversells his role to the extreme, but at least he’s hawking something…even if he fully changes accents several times throughout the film and at one point even adopts a lisp for a brief scene. 

This is a cheap, stupid, pointless excuse of a film that represents nothing but $$$ for everyone involved.  It will keep the lights on in whatever lake cabin they have or perhaps an acting class or two for some of the local supporting cast that desperately need it.  It doesn’t meet the demands for the thriller genre and Midnight in the Switchgrass certainly won’t cut it as an action suspense picture.  I suggest firing up the lawnmower and cutting this weed down to the root.

Movie Review ~ Till Death

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Emma is left handcuffed to her dead husband as part of a sickening revenge plot and must survive two hired killers on their way to finish the job.

Stars: Megan Fox, Eoin Macken, Aml Ameen, Callan Mulvey, Jack Roth

Director: S.K. Dale

Rated: NR

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Let’s just face the facts about something. It’s going to be hard for us to admit it collectively so I can go ahead and speak for the group: we all missed the boat big time on Megan Fox and gave her a raw deal back in the Transformers days.  Don’t bother to argue or pretend you don’t agree.  Don’t point to the Transformers sequel and go “But, look!”  Don’t hold up your used copy of Jonah Hex with it’s not quite torn off Blockbuster label and for goodness sake please don’t even start with Jennifer’s Body.  If you are still claiming Jennifer’s Body is a bad movie you need to go back and watch it again and then come back and apologize. There is no space for Jennifer’s Body deniers here.

What I’m trying to say is that Fox achieved a certain amount of fame for something other than her acting and that somehow rendered her a bad actress, which I just don’t think she is.  Now, what I do think is that she’s an actress that has to be in the right movie to be successful and Till Death is her bread and butter.  The Bulgaria-filmed thriller has a dynamite concept, one of those situations you read on paper and think it could never be stretched to a feature length but which, miraculously, manages to work beautifully as a zesty little bit of bloody fun which keeps you alert and on your toes.

Emma (Fox, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) is not in the happiest of marriages, as evidenced by her ongoing affair with an employee (Aml Ameen, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) at her husband Mark’s office.  While she recently ended her relationship with Tom, her thoughts continue to drift to him even as she’s out with Mark (Eoin Macken) for an uncharacteristically romantic evening.  Whisking her away to their secluded lake house, Mark has the luxuriously furnished dwelling all set-up for a seductive evening and appears ready to recommit to their union.  With her affair over and her once aloof spouse now showing renewed interest, Emma feels as if this may be a positive step in reclaiming her life.  Then she falls asleep.

When Emma wakes up, she’s handcuffed to Mark who has a gun in his other hand.  Before she knows it, he’s killed himself and she’s left all alone tethered to her dead mate.  Then things get weirder.  Not only has Mark committed suicide in front of her, but everything in the furnished house has disappeared overnight.  Anything she could use to free herself or call for help has vanished.  Realizing she’s been set-up, Emma has to use considerable strength to move about the house and find a way to literally get rid of her dead weight of a husband.  What she doesn’t realize is that Mark has also connected with someone from Emma’s past, a stalker (Callan Mulvey, Shadow in the Cloud) who attacked her and was sent to prison but was recently released.  And he’s on his way over.

Fans of talking to the screen will have a field day with Fox and Till Death because the numerous predicaments screenwriter Jason Carvey puts Emma into are enough to drive you bonkers.  One moment, you’re cheering her on for her ingenuity and the next you’re screaming at her for blowing her cover by knocking something over.  Director S.K. Dale works within these tight constraints of the house and the small surrounding area, never letting things get too claustrophobic while always reminding you just how alone Emma is without any form of help coming to save her.  Several well-done sequences of near misses are nicely thought out and, even better, believably executed.  It never looks like Fox is just dragging a cloth dummy around after her, either.  The poor guy playing her husband really takes a beating as the corpse…it’s like a horror version of Weekend at Bernie’s.

Stylish thrillers with strong female leads are the types of films that Fox should make more of and recently she’s been headlining a number of titles in this genre, which suit me just fine.  Right now, I have another film in my queue to watch she’s co-starring in with Bruce Willis that’s due out in a few weeks so the jury’s out if that will produce the same rewarding fruit that Till Death found.  For now, it’s worth it to take note of how this well-done feature uses its star to draw the suspense higher and maintain it through to the very end.

Movie Review ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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The Facts
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Synopsis: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

Stars: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Laura Linney, Brian Tee, Stephen ‘Sheamus’ Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams

Director: Dave Green

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 112 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review: On the way out of the theater after my screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, I had to sit down. Feeling like I just got off of a carousel I rode upside down going backwards, my brain was mush, my eyes unable to focus. It’s only then that I realized that, like a crazy ride I rode recently at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, I had only myself to blame for feeling queasy.  I’m not saying I knew I’d hate this sequel to producer Michael Bay’s mindless remake/reboot from 2014, but I didn’t know I would hate it so very much.

Where to begin when discussing this second installment in a franchise requiring a wealth of suspension of disbelief for its talking turtles, a crusty old rat father figure, and Megan Fox (This is 40) as a serious television reporter?  It’s been several years since the events of the first film which saw the teenage reptiles and their human helpers (Fox and Will Arnett, The LEGO Movie, who gets smarmier with each passing hour he’s alive) send big bad nemesis Shredder to prison. Preferring to stay underground, the turtles let Arnett take the credit for stopping the crime wave and while becomes a NYC hero the real champions are stuck eating pizza and watching basketball from the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, Gone Girl) breaks Shredder out of prison in an elaborately staged (and seemingly endless) action sequence for reasons never made totally clear to anyone, least of all audience members. There’s some mumbo jumbo about black holes and the time space continuum before Shredder comes face to face with another villain, Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb).  Looking like a Jell-O-molded brain creation housed within a titanic robot, Krang wants Shredder to gather some alien remnants on earth in order to create a portal between Krang’s world and ours.  In return, Krang gives Shredder a vial of purple ooze that will help enact revenge on the teen turtles that did him wrong.

Back on Earth, Shredder uses the purple ooze on fellow prison escapees Bebop and Rocksteady, turning them into a warthog and rhinoceros in order to take down the turtles. TMNT fans have been waiting a long time for these two popular villains to appear onscreen and if the overall result is less than satisfying (imagine Beavis and Butthead but uglier and stupider) it at least takes some attention away from Brian Tee’s stilted Shredder.  Add in some paltry dissention in the turtle ranks and you’ve got a lengthy film that eventually rendered this viewer completely numb.  At one point I considered taking a walk on the nonsense but the neverending onslaught of quick cut 3D action scenes coupled with a blaring soundtrack left me paralyzed.

Director Dave Green helmed the respectable family sci-fi yarn Earth to Echo so I was interested to see if he’d add the same heart and curiosity he brought to that little seen film. Taking over the reins from the bombastic Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans), Green succumbs to the Michael Bay side of his directing psyche and delivers a movie that’s all noise. The CGI turtles feel less life-like than the previous entry and so much of the film is computer generated that action passages (nearly all at night in dark locales) turn into washes of greens and dark blues, indistinguishable from one moment to the next.

Fox manages to retain a pouty face even in the most dangerous of situations while Arnett chews so much scenery I’m shocked he wasn’t 500 lbs by the time the film wrapped. Perry continues to be an absolute disaster of an actor but he’s given a run for his money by Stephen Amell as fan favorite Casey Jones. Poor Amell has to recite the most terrible dialogue from Josh Applebaum (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and Andre Nemec’s pathetic script, though I think if Amell was a better actor he could have made it less laughable. I mean, the awful lines can be given some dramatic weight and three-time Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes) shows us how its done. Make no mistake, Linney’s performance is as terrible as the rest but at least she knows she’s slumming it and nabbing a neat paycheck for her trouble.

It’s a pity that this turtle turd of a film will make enough money to warrant another installment while smaller films deserving of a TMNT -sized audience will go unnoticed this summer. Representing everything that’s terrible about summer blockbusters (no heart, no brain, no point), these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need to be grounded.

The Silver Bullet ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Out of the Shadows

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Synopsis: The Turtles return to save the city from a dangerous threat.

Release Date: June 3, 2016

Thoughts: The 2014 reboot (the second attempt at one, mind you) of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a loud, crass, critically reviled bit of summer dunderheadedness…but it made a hefty profit at the box office…which leads us to this sequel subtitled Out of the Shadows.  Where the first film seemed to at least attempt to find a bit of grit, this one looks like a pure  gonzo fest of oversized performances, special effects, and cleavage shots of star Megan Fox (What to Expect When You’re Expecting).  Fans of the TMNT franchise will likely warm at the sight of villains Bebop and Rocksteady but I see just another questionable use of CGI and likely a large waste of time.

 

 

Movie Review ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny.

Stars: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 101 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: I can still recall waiting in line at the Eden Prairie East movie theater back in 1990 on the day the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was released. An unexpected hit at the box office, I remember the film being exactly what I anticipated, filled with the necessary laughs and stylized butt-kicking action by our reptilian heroes. Followed by two sequels and one strange quasi-reboot in the form of an animated endeavor that I seem to have totally blocked out, the Turtles were comic book creations of 1984 and have demonstrated staying power through the years in television series and video games. However, it seemed like another big screen take on the ninjas would languish in the planning stages forever.

Originally intended for release in 2012, Paramount’s Michael Bay (Transformers: Age of Extinction) produced, Jonatha Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) directed live-action reboot is the stuff that nostalgia killing dreams are made out of. I’m sure the concept of talking teenage ninja turtles has always been as silly as it sounds but there’s something about this labored effort that drives that point home over and over again, leaving even the most engaged of TMNT fan audiences in a bit of a stupor.

Producer Michael Bay has made nice with his former Transformers star Megan Fox (What to Expect When You’re Expecting), putting to bed the rift that resulted in her being replaced in that franchise.   He casts her here as plucky news reporter April O’Neil but Fox comes across more as weather girl material than investigative journalist. Delivering each of her lines as if she’s ordering Chinese takeout, Fox’s misplaced emotions are truly the mystery that needs solving.

I’m convinced Will Arnett (The Nut Job) and William Fichtner (The Lone Ranger) signed up for this film to prove once and for all they aren’t the same person…why else would these two usually decent actors ham it up in roles that should have been filled by soap stars more on Fox’s level? The normally attentive Arnett can’t make lemonade with his lemon role and Fichtner simply gives up two lines in.

While the Turtles themselves are nicely rendered and given genial voice by three unknowns and Johnny Knoxville (Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa), they are now almost too life-like. At least when they were in the rubber suits during the 90s there was arguably more of the kind of required suspension of disbelief those early movies went the distance with. In 2014, they just come across as creepy.

Perhaps the problem lies in the overall scale of the film. Built as a mega-million dollar 3D would-be blockbuster, the campy, wise-cracking nature of the turtles is all but obliterated within a soggy script that mixes a slackly delivered origin story with tired plot points liberally lifted from numerous other comic book flicks. The whole dastardly scheme enacted by Shredder and his Foot Clan bears such a close resemblance to that of The Amazing Spider-Man that Marvel Studios should be calling their lawyers.

Still, a lawsuit from Marvel would be the most exciting thing that could happen for the film. Supposedly more in line with the recent comics, aside from an admittedly spectacular chase sequence down a snowy mountainside there’s precious little happening here that would be of interest to anyone outside of curious die-hard Turtle fans. Add to that unimpressive digital effects and a ho-hum re-imagined Shredder that reads more like Edward HuntingKnifeHands and you have a late summer dud.

It’s truly time to let these teenage reptiles graduate, just as so many of their fans have grown up in the 30 years since they made their debut.

The Silver Bullet ~ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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Synopsis: The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Release Date: August 8, 2014

Thoughts: I had to resist the urge to just publish the words that accompany the theme song for the classic animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series as my review of the first teaser trailer for producer Michael Bay’s reboot. Though a big screen animated restage of the franchise was attempted in 2007, it didn’t catch on like everyone had hoped…until Bay swooped in and brought the turtles over to Paramount Pictures. Directed by Bay protégé Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans), I’m surprised how fondly I’m reacting to our first glimpse of the redesigned turtles who work with reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) to combat The Shredder (William Fichtner, The Lone Ranger) and save the city. The humor looks to be on par with the original 80’s films while the action/effects/make-up is modern times all the way. Hope this is a nice retro ride for fans like myself weaned on the TMNT movies, animated series, and Nintendo video game.

Movie Review ~ This Is 40

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A look at the lives of Pete and Debbie a few years after the events of Knocked Up.

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Melissa McCarthy, Robert Smigel, Charlene Yi, Albert Brooks, Chris O’Dowd

Director: Judd Apatow

Rated: R

Running Length: 134 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: A miserable cinematic mallet to the head, This Is 40 is the latest film from director/writer Apatow and is being billed as a “sort-of sequel” to his 2007 blockbuster Knocked Up.  Instead of continuing on the story of the mismatched couple that found themselves pregnant, Apatow has crafted a very long follow-up that focuses on the characters from the “B” storyline from the first film.  In Knocked Up, married couple Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) were interesting variations on the best friend characters…people that had problems of their own that didn’t always come to the rescue like they would in most films.

In This Is 40, Debbie and Pete are both approaching the big 4-0 within days of each other (at least I think they are close together, the timeline for the film seemed to be rewritten every half hour) and…stop me if you’ve heard this before…the female is taking getting older worse than the male!!!  I know, right?  Unheard of!  That’s just one of the many clichéd situations, jokes, dialogue, etc. that This Is 40 employs in its epically long 2 ¼ hours.

It’s clear that Rudd (Wanderlust, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Mann (ParaNorman) have good chemistry and, like Knocked Up, I totally bought them as a married couple.  I’m just convinced that these particular characters didn’t need another whole film to themselves to complete their arc.  What’s more, this film is LONGER than Knocked Up and doesn’t have the strong supporting players that film did to keep things moving.  Instead, the movie is laboriously carried by Rudd, Mann, and the actresses playing their daughters.  Did I mention that Mann is married to Apatow and their real-life children play the offspring of Mann/Rudd (clearly standing in for Apatow) in the film?  Basically you are paying money to see the Apatow family home movies.

Like Apatow’s previous directorial efforts (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Funny People) the movie is nearly 90 minutes too long.  There is so much extraneous material here that Apatow has seemed to jump the Director’s Cut gun and just given us his preferred cut of the film now instead of later.  What’s more, Universal Studios let him do it!  There are characters and scenes that could be wholly excised and not harm anything integral to the story yet there they are consistently ruining any sort of momentum the film gets going.  I’d go out on a limb and say that every scene went on at least a minute too long.

When you have to say that Megan Fox is the best of the supporting players, you know you may be in trouble.  The truth is, Fox is quite good as an employee at Mann’s barely mentioned California boutique and she saves whatever scenes she’s a part of…even though many of the jokes come at her expense.  Brooks and Lithgow play Rudd and Mann’s loser fathers – both actors could play these characters in their sleep…and it looks like they are asleep most of the time.  (Interesting to note that the credits list more make-up artists for Brooks than Mann…yet he still looks like a sand dune with eyes)  Yi and O’Dowd are awful in their roles…McCarthy starts off fairly well in her glorified cameo until she and Apatow take the comedy to an out-of-control hyper-vulgar state that lost my attention almost immediately.

Vulgarity is really the lifeblood of this film and Apatow may have thought he was being real witty letting his actors use all the swear words in the book and their derivatives but it only shows how average his writing style is by not finding a better voice to give to his actors.  I’m absolutely no prude when it comes to potty mouth-edness but the amount of expletives that come from every person in the film (even the children) is exhausting and undercut any point they are trying to make while using them.

Mann and Rudd spend 98% of the movie bickering and when they aren’t bickering they’re drunk, or high, or having sex, or laughing at their own jokes.  By the time Mann blows up at Rudd for the 900th time, the audience is numb to the conversation and we just await their eventual reconciliation.  Even if Apatow gets in a few on-the-nose observations about married life, they wind up being overshadowed by a general feeling of misery that is absolutely toxic.

So, in summary, here’s what I learned from seeing This Is 40: Marriage is hard, raising kids isn’t easy, parents are crazy, getting old sucks, and young people have different musical tastes than older people. Cutting edge material, Mr. Apatow….cutting edge.  It’s hard to believe that the same guy that gave us the excellent and witty television show Freaks and Geeks has sunk to this sub-par level.  It’s one of the least entertaining and least funny films released in 2012.