Sunday, September 18, 2011

All for a Laugh

For a gray dreary day of not feeling so well, I decided to stay in bed with a purring cat and watch some lighter fare. (I also decided it was good idea to work on my Netflix queue of instant streaming while I still have it – although its initial freezing of my computer when trying to use it doesn’t endear it to me or make me regret my decision to cut back on my Netflix bill by switching to a DVD-only plan after their move to separate – and more expensive – plans for DVD and streaming video.) So I ended up watching some romantic comedies, which aren’t my usual fare for movies, and here are my thoughts on these two movies.

Happy Ever Afters

Freddie and Sophie are getting married for the second time – to each other.

Groomsman: Don't worry, Father. She was late the last time, too.

Priest: Last time?

Freddie: Yeah, this is our second. Second time getting married.

Priest: What, the same girl?

Freddie: Yeah. We had... problems the first time and got divorced, but we're sorted now.

Meanwhile, young single mother Maura has agreed to marry Wilson, who is due to be deported back to Africa otherwise, in exchange for money to keep at bay the repossession of her furniture and eviction from her house.

When the two couples have receptions at the same time in the same small hotel, a madcap comedy of errors ensues. There’s a fair amount of predictability in some of the gags and in some of the movie’s resolution, but overall it was a great dose of humor and I found myself literally laughing aloud at moments. For instance, there was the conversation between Maura and the priest who married her after he finds out that her marriage was one of convenience and the immigration officers are seeking to find out otherwise.

Maura: Go talk to them.

Priest: What? Why me?

Maura: I'm not a good liar.

Priest: And you think I am?

Did I mention this entire conversation was taken place in a janitor’s closet with an unconscious Freddie beside the priest and Maura? Picture it if you will.

As I know her best as the quiet, elegant Anne Elliot in Persuasion, it was surprising to see Sally Hawkins as a saucy klutz with an in-your-face attitude. She was a master at physical comedy as Maura and, on a more serious note, the relationship between Maura and her daughter, Molly, was priceless. In fact, there were a few moments of somberness to the movie, not only between Maura and Molly but also those revolving around Sophie’s bridesmaid Niamh who is contemplating her own choices in life and whether she is happy with her “boring husband” who doesn’t seem to pay much mind to either her or their children.

Without giving too much away, the ending of the movie is somewhat predictable (as is quite often the case in comedies, especially ones with a romantic leaning) but not nearly as cliché or tidy as the typical American romantic comedy. (Happy Ever Afters takes place in and was filmed in Ireland.) Overall, I thought this was a decent comedy and perfect for putting me in a better mood.

You Again

Marni (Kristen Bell) is returning home from her successful PR career for her brother’s wedding. While her brother is getting married in only a few days, somehow Marni has not yet found out her brother’s fiancĂ©e is. Turns out that his bride-to-be is Marni’s “arch-nemesis,” mean girl Joanna who tormented Marni all throughout high school. Marni’s mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) tells her to move on and let bygones be bygones but is thrown for a loop herself when Joanna’s beloved aunt Mona (Sigourney Weaver) turns out to be Gail’s former best friend from her high school days. Yeah, it’s a small world after all, according to this movie.

Unlike Happy Ever Afters, You Again was pretty much a miss. The funniest parts were all seen in the trailer and I didn’t really get anything extra out of the hour and forty-five minutes I spent on watching the whole movie. There were so many scenes that were over-the-top ridiculous, including the absurdly competitive dance lesson, the “cat fights” between the two sets of rivals, and the obsessive way Joanna and Gail were still stuck on re-living their high school cheerleading routines, to name a few. Joanna and Marni were both characters that were hard to decide how to feel about them. Joanna would do 180s from being a character you’d feel sympathy for because she’s trying to make right her wrongs to being a character you’d hate because she was just as cold and calculating as her high school days. It didn’t seem fitting for her to be these two completely different characters at the same time; the writers really needed to decide on one or the other and then let her be. Meanwhile Marni seems like the underdog that everyone would normally root for except that her obsessive vindictiveness in desiring to bring Joanna down at any cost was at odds with Joanna’s (albeit not consistent) attempts to move on and be a better person. This is not to say that either character actually gained depth; they were both just not fully realized. It’s been disappointing after watching her play the multi-faceted Veronica Mars to see Kristen Bell re-appear time and again in these B movie as dull, flat characters.

With a star-studded cast like this one, there was potential for so much from the actors in non-lead roles as well but unfortunately this also fell flat. I was excited to Kristin Chenoweth was in the movie, who I loved as Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies, but her character, the exclusive wedding planner Georgia King, was a bit character in only a few scenes. In the end, this was probably for the best because this character was involved in completely over-the-top absurd antics. Betty White, who seems to be showing up everywhere lately, was also relegated to a very minor role as Marni’s Grandma Bunny. Her having such a small role was a particular let-down because she had some of the funniest lines in the movie. Her “I’m also on Facebook and the Twitter.” is probably the best thing that came out of this movie (although you could hear that one on the trailer!).

Overall, the movie isn’t really funny enough (or perhaps not the right kind of funny for me) and it’s too stuck into the woes of high school to feel like a grown-up comedy.

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