The Morning After: Jul. 5, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright’s first feature after a modestly successful TV career is a bizarre tale of a childish appliance salesman grappling with a collapsing relationship as a zombie apocalypse begins around him. Aided by his best mate (Nick Frost), Shaun (Simon Pegg) navigates the deadly minefield of shambling zombie attacks and romantic relationships, the dangers of each competing for dominance.

Wright’s film, co-written with Pegg, is a great bit of fun. Employing fairly typical British comic timing, the movie swiftly moves towards its somewhat inevitable conclusion. Weaving in a comic pseudo love story into a zombie horror film is irregular, but handled quite judiciously. Deadpan humor, protagonist obliviousness, and copious sight gags make for a fun romp. At times, the film moves slowly, but overall it’s an entertaining, engaging ride.

Hot Fuzz

A follow up to his successful 2004 zombie romantic comedy, Edgar Wright brought his main cast members (Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) back for a new comic excursion, this time into a cop buddy comedy. Set in a quaint English countryside village, Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is forced to bring his anti-crime police skills to bear in a town with seemingly little violence. Paired with his new inspector’s (Jim Broadbent) son (Frost), a nefarious murder plot begins to emerge as several grizzly “accidents” begin pointing to something underhanded. What’s wrong is something far bigger and more insidious than even Sgt. “Angle” expects.

At times, this film is far funnier than its 2004 predecessor, but it also feels a bit more conventional. Pegg goes from haphazard schlub to total badass with a strange efficiency. The straight-laced British humor is ever-present, though the copious sight gags that thrilled in Shaun of the Dead are largely absent here. It’s a movie that feels tonally different from his predecessor, while sharing that film’s odd twists on traditional themes of the genre.

Despicable Me 3

Introducing a couple of new characters is perfectly fine for the third film in a series. Despicable Me 3 doesn’t have much new, but still feels like it has tacked itself onto its predecessors in a way that feels derivative.

Finally returning to his roots, everyone’s favorite villain Gru (Steve Carell) must contend with his desire to please his hero spy wife’s (Kristen Wiig) desire to return to work and his own appreciation of sneaky villainy. Everything here feels a bit tired, almost lazy. We’re introduced to an interesting plot that feels like it’s put on the back-burner even when being at the forefront of events. The voice work is perfunctory with a few interesting bright spots.

If there’s a case to be made for this film franchise to find a graceful exit, this might be it. A solid, but underwhelming sequel where everything feels overdone and burdensome when it should feel light and exciting.

Rough Night

A literal and figurative Rough Night at the movies, this Scarlett Johansson starrer has quite a few positives, but nearly as many negatives as it traverses a frequently corny murder comedy and tries desperately to salvage itself when things are already crumbling around it.

Set during a bachelorette party, four old friends and a new buddy join together to celebrate Jess’ (Scarlett Johansson) impending engagement at a Miami beach house. When they accidentally kill a stripper, the quintet embarks on a quest to protect themselves from the impending jail cell they all fear. Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, and Kate McKinnon are all capable comedians as the five friends in the film, but the material has too many slow moments and not enough cohesive energy to sustain a film running an hour and forty minutes. What’s worse is that the attempt to stretch the film to its eventual length makes for some very awkward and challenging dead spots.

Director Lucia Aniello has spent most of her career working in television, where compact storytelling is a must. Her screenplay, co-written by Paul W. Downs, who plays Jess’ fiance Peter in the film, feels like it might have been more compelling and tightly written were it made as a TV series. Padding the width with awkward silences doesn’t make for a fun time. Comedies like this need to be rapid-fire and things need to move fairly quickly to create the kind of frantic pace the film suggests without exemplifying. This is a movie that you very much want to enjoy, but ultimately feel like you were shortchanged by a faulty and overdone premise with insufficient rewards.

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