By G. Michael Dobbs
I saw three new movies and will recommend one in this week's film review column.
This is the End
In some ways this "outrageous" comedy is a re-working of the Frank Sinatra Rat Pack films "Ocean's Eleven," "Robin and the Seven Hoods" and "Sergeants Three" in which a group of well-known show business friends trade on the public and professional images for comic or dramatic effect.
Instead of the Rat Pack we have Seth Rogen (co-writer and director of the film), Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride playing themselves as they cope with the Biblical Apocalypse. Actually they're playing versions of themselves one would hope.
While at a house-warming party at Franco's new mansion, the earth opens up, selected people are beamed into the sky and literally all Hell breaks loose. So the comic premise is how do a bunch of young spoiled Hollywood actors react to the end of the world.
The problem I had with this film is two-fold. The characters they play are not so stupid or shallow as they should be Michael Cera portrays a version of himself that is shockingly comic and the film sags in the middle story-wise. A little judicious editing of some of the scenes in the house would have improved the film a bit.
What also would have improved it would have been taking real comedic chances and not telegraphing gags. I don't want to give away any spoilers but frankly the end was even predictable.
While I did laugh a bit, I didn't find this to be a successful comedy. Need a laugh? Get ahold of "Animal House," "Monty Python's Meaning of Life," "Kentucky Fried Movie," or "Airplane" for a comedy that stretched the expectations of an audience.
This is a comedy that did work and much of it was based on casting that truly clicked. Sandra Bullock is a career-driven, successful but obnoxious FBI agent named Ashburn, while Melissa McCarthy is Mullins, a successful no-holds-barred Boston police officer who is equally disliked and feared by her colleagues.
The two performers have real chemistry and the result is a solid summer comedy fast moving and funny.
Their two characters meet when Ashburn comes to Boston to investigate a drug case, one that Mullins will not yield her jurisdiction, especially when it involves one of her brothers.
Mullins is a cop who uses profanity and intimidation to great effect and McCarthy looks like she is having a lot of fun. Bullock is fine, as the proficient FBI agent who is a little bit like a fish out of water.
I enjoyed this film much better than director Paul Feig's previous film monster hit "Bridesmaids" as this film doesn't change its gears so abruptly from comedy to drama as that film did.
While "The Heat" may not be a groundbreaking comedy, at least it is consistently funny and good hearted.
The Lone Ranger
I've saved the worst for last. I realize this film was not made or intended for someone who grew up watching the TV show starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. This is a story for a new generation, clearly one in which straight up heroics is out of fashion.
In literature, we have many kinds of heroes: the reluctant hero, the bad man who is redeemed, and the common person who rises to an occasion. In this film, we have the hero as a screw-up, as an idiot, and as someone who doesn't learn from his environment and circumstances.
The screenwriters, producers and director apparently all decided that a comedic Lone Ranger would market better than an adventure story. Therefore, Armie Hammer's John Reid, despite his upbringing in Texas, is now an attorney returning from education in the East, and is completely unprepared for life in the West.
Tonto, played by Johnny Depp in a manner that strongly suggests Buster Keaton, is now a mentally and emotionally damaged loner seeking revenge and redemption.
The convoluted plot presents us with a framing sequence that makes no sense, the Lone Ranger's origins, a railroad conspiracy, a madam with a scrimshaw ivory leg that doubles as a shotgun, a craven Army officer, a silver mine, a villain who is also a cannibal, unrequited love, the death of an older brother, the self-inflicted death of a Native American tribe and a horse that can climb a tree and scale a two-story building. Whew!
Although beautiful to look at, the film's story is such a mess and the central character is so unlikable that I'm sure this will have the reputation of being a major misfire.
Seldom have I been so disappointed, so angered by the shameless waste of millions of dollars on a misguided movie such as this one, especially since it involves a property that was loved by several generations of Americans.
"The Lone Ranger" could have been a film that re-ignited interest in the character. Now, I'm sure, it will be many years before anyone else thinks about using the character and that's a shame.