The Founder

John Lee Hancock’s story of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc lacks the flavor and commentary of what “The Social Network” was to Facebook.

The Founder PosterI can imagine a sleazy, slick talking huckster pitching the idea for “The Founder” now: Let’s make a movie about a capitalizing asshole who stole an idea from two entrepreneurial brothers, but let’s wrap it in a sunny package and sell it as a story for the whole family! We’ll remind people how hard work and financial loopholes can help you build an empire on the backs of somebody’s namesake, and we’ll call it a crowd-pleaser. Do you want fries with that too?

“The Founder” is to McDonalds what “The Social Network” was to Facebook, except director John Lee Hancock lacks the irony and social commentary that someone like David Fincher could bring to this material. He’s all wrong for it, and “The Founder” needs more spice and flavor if it wants to be anything but bland. Continue reading “The Founder”

22 Jump Street

’22 Jump Street’ is quite literally the same story and idea as the first film, and it’s much lesser for it.

Nick Offerman delivers a monologue at the start of “22 Jump Street” about the surprise success of the 21 Jump Street case, i.e. the plot at the center of 2012’s “21 Jump Street,” obviously. He explains that no one cared about it the first time around, but now they’re going to throw more money at, as though that would produce better results, do the same thing and keep everyone happy.

It’s a wickedly self aware moment, and Offerman is talking about this original film, but he may as well be talking about “The Hangover” or any action sequel ever made.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller proved earlier this year that they can be transparently self-aware and still be innovative with “The LEGO Movie.” So they more than anyone know that for “22 Jump Street” to be good and even better than the original, it would have to be more than a sequel about bad sequels.

And yet here Jonah Hill is, doing slam poetry that isn’t as funny as his Peter Pan song. Here’s a drug tripping sequence involving split screen dream worlds for both Hill and Channing Tatum that isn’t as funny as Tatum diving through a gong or Rob Riggle trying to put Hill’s tongue back in his mouth. And here’s Tatum stupidly saying Cate Blanchett when he means “carte blanche,” and the movie not following up on getting that cameo the way they did with Johnny Depp the first time around.

“22 Jump Street” is literally the same movie as the first one with more money thrown at it, and that might be the point, but that doesn’t make it a stronger or equal film. Continue reading “22 Jump Street”

Smashed

“Smashed” is a touching, light, relatable story of a functioning alcoholic, an idea and persona that makes it that much more authentic.

Movies about alcoholism are always pitiful and tragic in nature. The characters in “Leaving Las Vegas” or even as far back as “The Lost Weekend” are at the lowest of low, and drinking is the end-all/be-all of problems.

“Smashed” tells a story about a functioning alcoholic, or someone who has survived this way for a long time. It recognizes that alcoholism is just a catalyst in people’s complex lives; the deeper problems are systemic. In that way, James Ponsoldt’s film feels infinitely more relatable. Continue reading “Smashed”

Somebody Up There Likes Me

The indie “Somebody Up There Likes Me” is a deadpan comedy that doesn’t get points for feeling and looking insincere.

Bob Byington’s indie film “Somebody Up There Likes Me” doesn’t look like a student film on accident. His characters never age, with decades and major life events going by as though they’re stuck in a moment of youthful absent-mindedness.

It’s a snide commentary about the human condition and a clever way to save a buck on makeup, new actors and expensive cameras. But it doesn’t give the movie a pass to both look and feel insincere.

Consider Max (Keith Poulson), an awkward 20-something who has gone through a failed marriage, is so cheap he steals conciliatory flowers from a grave, and is a difficult, condescending waiter at an overpriced steakhouse. He’s insouciant, cracks wise, is generally clueless and refuses to mature until it’s much too late. He has a wife he gets along with (Jess Weixler), a younger babysitter willing to have an affair with him (Stephanie Hunt) and a best friend with whom he’s built an empire of pizza and ice cream shops (Nick Offerman).

But what does he care about? Why is he always deadpan? Why is every response that comes from his mouth punctuated by an awkward silence and a sneer? Is being immature the same as being a jerk?

It’s this mentality that separates Byington from his equally deadpan and droll counterpart Wes Anderson. Although it goes without saying that Byington is not the stylist Anderson is, Byington’s film lacks the pathos that would make his characters endearing.

At no point do they seem to notice their not quite dreamlike but not quite realistic world is full of bright lights, colors and cartoon clouds. They even seem to forget a magic, “Pulp Fiction” style suitcase that might otherwise make their lives a whole lot sunnier.

What will you learn from “Somebody Up There Likes Me?” The world is pretty, you’ll have sex and make a lot of money, but someday quickly you die. At least you’ll have a few laughs in between.

2 ½ stars