BRAKING FOR WHALES (2020)

April 23, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Their mother amassed quite the collection of whale-related items from eBay prior to her recent passing. The brother needs the inheritance to continue his self-discovery course, which may or may not answer the question of whether or not he is gay. The estranged sister apparently abandoned her young daughter for fear of being a lousy mother. He admits to being ‘lost’, and she admits to being ‘broken’. Self-loathing is on full display in director Sean McEwen’s first feature film.

Tom Felton (Draco from the Harry Potter movies) plays Brandon Walker, and Tammin Sursok (“Pretty Little Liars”) plays his older sister Star Walker. They reunite for the reading of mom’s will, which includes the outlandish requirement for Brandon and Star to dispose of mom’s ashes in the belly of whale in order to receive their inheritance. Needing the money, they hop in mom’s old Winnebago for a 48 hour road trip to a public aquarium that houses the closest whale to Iowa.

The emotional impact of a story about a brother and sister finding common ground on a forced road trip boils down to two things: the chemistry between the two actors and the script. Mr. Felton and Ms. Sursok seem to be committed to the cause, and there are a couple of moments that strike the right chord, but overall the script is what prevents us from connecting to either the characters or the story. The attempts to inject humor tend to be in poor taste, while the dramatic elements either repeat themselves or don’t work because we simply don’t care enough about Brandon or Star.

Having the running gag of Brandon proclaiming “I’m not gay” while Star relentlessly peppers him on the topic comes across as not just dated, but also quite sad – seeing as Brandon is a thirty-something year old man. And worse than that is the stop over at Aunt Jackie’s (Wendi McLendon-Covey, BRIDESMAIDS, “The Goldbergs”) and Uncle Randal’s (David Koechner) house. This sequence of social commentary meant to bash extreme right-wing conservatives is simply embarrassing to watch. I actually felt terrible for the actors in these scenes. Comedy around homosexuality and racism must be handled with grace … whether it’s subtle or cartoonish.

The script was co-written by director Sean McEwen and his leading lady (and real life wife) Tammin Sursok. Respect is due to independent filmmakers who find a way to realize their project, but we do wish more time had been spent on the script. In fact, the whole production felt rushed and unpolished, leaving us with the most dreaded question any movie watcher might ask … how much longer?

watch the trailer:


ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (2013)

December 29, 2013

anchorman Greetings again from the darkness. Will Ferrell has been everywhere the past few weeks making promotional appearances as the golden voiced, perfectly coiffed Ron Burgandy. He clearly enjoys this character and is proud (deservedly so) of the franchise he created with business partner and director and co-writer Adam McKay. The first Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy was released in 2004 and nine years is an unusually long period to wait for a comedy sequel. But it’s not like either Ferrell or McKay need the money, and the golden rule of comedy … timing is everything.

The original movie has reached both classic comedy and cult status, and is one of the most frequently quoted movies from the past decade (“I’m kind of a big thing“). Having such a loyal following means guaranteed box office success for this sequel. So while I found this one somewhat lacking, the true Anchorman fans will embrace it … as proved by the loud laughter throughout the theatre.  And in a movie year strong on drama and somewhat lacking in comedies, it’s nice to hear laughter again.

The gag to get the doofus gang back together centers around the 1980 development of fictional Global News Network – the birth of 24 hour news (and a lightly veiled reference to CNN). The Ron Burgandy gang is all back: Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana, David Koechner as Champ, and Steve Carell as Brick. Christina Applegate also returns as Veronica Cartright, though sadly she has very few scenes. Newcomers include James Marsden as Ron Burgandy’s professional competition and Meagan Good as the station manager. Kristen Wiig weirds out as the soulmate for Brick, and the bus load of cameos arrives for the gang fight at the end … kind of a spoof of the 1979 cult favorite The Warriors.

I will never criticize a movie that makes so many people laugh. However, I will admit to finding only a few giggles in the two hours (including the Dan Issel reference). It did strike me that many of the best jokes and gags would be difficult for anyone under age 35 to “get”. Period humor abounds. The best jab at the news industry occurs when Ron Burgandy says “Why do we need to tell people what they NEED to know? Why can’t we tell them what they WANT to know?”. That kind of approach would have fit the cerebral humor I could appreciate.

**NOTE: if you are somehow unfamiliar with Anchorman humor, know that nothing is off limits.  There is plenty of humor based on racism, sexism, disabilities and most any other politically incorrect topic you can name.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are fan of the first movie and/or Will Ferrell OR you want to see the most star-studded gang fight in movie history

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are confused by the laughter of others brought on by such movies as Step Brothers, Semi-Pro, or Blades of Glory

watch the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VdGI5-z_hg