Image: Paramount Pictures
For as long as there have been ensemble comedies, there have been wasted opportunities and over-talented casts. The litany of movies with fantastic groups of actors wasted on unoriginal scripts is littered with titles like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 200 Cigarettes, and Valentine’s Day.
When the script or direction fails on an ensemble comedy, more than a fair share of the workload falls onto the cast. Some movies, like This is the End or Hail, Caesar!, manage to stay just above water because of the actors alone, but a brilliant cast can only do so much — which is exactly Office Christmas Party‘s problem.
Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance, Kate McKinnon, Jennifer Aniston, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Karan Soni, Rob Corddry, Sam Richardson, and Jillian Bell form the holiday comedy’s cast and deserve credit not just for doing more than their share to keep the party going but for sharing the spotlight like a true comedy team. It really makes you wish the writing were better.
Artwork: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
After Disney’s renaissance 25 years ago, the animation titan lost its magic touch and spent the latter half of the ‘90s trying to get it back. Their movies remained very good, but just seemed a bit less in the wake of masterworks like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
If that golden period consisted of the lustrum between 1989 and 1994, their more recent renaissance was the hat trick of Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. 2014’s Big Hero 6 was an enjoyable romp in the moment, but lacked the imaginative spark of its immediate predecessors. It’s still too early to tell whether Zootopia marks the best of a run of “less-thans” or the beginning of a new return to form. Continue reading
Photo: Warner Bros.
Jason Bateman has had one of the most welcome career resurrections of the last ten or fifteen years. After burning bright and fast as a teen star, he seemed destined to be remembered simply as Justine Bateman’s younger brother until a little show called Arrested Development came knocking.
Following his pointed performance as Michael Bluth, Bateman began stealing the spotlight in guest roles in middling comedies like Dodgeball and The Break-Up, before showing himself to be a mature and complex leading man. The Kingdom, Juno, State of Play, Up in the Air, and The Switch were each among their year’s best and with them, Bateman proved himself to be among the best in his field. 2014 has been an especially productive for him, with Horrible Bosses 2 being his fourth film of the year. Unfortunately, Horrible Bosses 2 may also be his fourth-worst of the year. Continue reading
Photo: Warner Bros.
The premise is simple enough: Four grown-up siblings and their mother agree to spend one week in the same house, as the request of their just-deceased father. While the house-arrest premise has been done in myriad ways already, This is Where I Leave You has better acting than any of its brethren and a screenplay that, for the most part, smartly sidesteps the predictable.