The Bronze (2016)

 

Released: March 18, 2016. Directed by: Bryan Buckley. Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson. Runtime: 1hr, 40 min.

Written by Melissa Rauch (TV’s The Big Bang Theory) and her husband Winston Rauch, The Bronze appears to rely on the idea that since the 4-foot-11 sweet-natured Melissa Rauch is foul-mouthed and aggressive here, it would be so ironic that it would result in big laughs.

The thing is – it’s not funny, and the way it throws a mix of swear words together never amounts to anything hysterical. Which is disappointing, considering it is a passion project.

Rauch stars as Hope Ann Gregory, a local celebrity who brought back an Olympic bronze medal from Rome to Amherst, Ohio. But though she is from Ohio, she has an accent that’s like a bizarre Chicago and Minnesota hybrid.

She gets whatever she wants in the town – from free food to a reserved parking spot next to her favourite diner. She still always wears her Olympic Team USA tracksuit from 2004 – and after an injury ended her gymnastics career, she’s embittered that her 15 minutes of fame is way behind her.

With her life stalled, her former coach commits suicide. (I know what you’re thinking: She doesn’t commit suicide because Hope is such a b–ch, but because it’s needed to advance the plot.) She requests, in her will, that Hope coach Olympic hopeful Maggie Townsend (Haley Lu Richardson) to greatness, and if she does, she will get $500,000.

The Bronze Haley Lu

Not even Haley Lu Richardson’s smile could save this. (Source)

A problem with the film is the fact that Rauch’s Hope Ann Gregory is plainly unlikable. She’s a bratty 30-year-old misanthrope that sincerely acts like she is still 17 years old. The point of the character is for her to be unlikable – but it is never funny.

We first meet the embittered Gregory in an ode to her large ego – in her bed masturbating to the video of her bronze medal win. Her huge ego definitely surpasses her size, and also feels like an ego of a gold medalist – not a bronze medalist. She’s eventually characterized as being scared of being forgotten.

But even with that and a forced love interest, there’s never a moment where where we root for Hope. There was really only one time I liked her on a mild level, when she was teaching Maggie stage presence. She smiles a lot and she is like a different person – which might be why I liked her in that moment.

She’s hard to relate to and she’s mean to her core, a character aspect that doesn’t work for Rauch’s kind demeanor.

The character we’re rooting for is Maggie – depicted as humble and a bit unrealistically innocent. We want her to win because she seems like a genuinely nice girl. Haley Lu Richardson’s performance is super likable and bubbly as the character. Both Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch and Sebastian Stan round out the main cast – but they can’t even save this turd.

A writing choice at the end of the film turned this from simply a bad film to a disaster for me. It felt like a last-ditch effort to make Hope more likable. Character decisions made me think that the Rauch writing pair either didn’t understand their characters or just wanted to rush the ending. Either way, it made the characters feel more like caricatures of their huge egos – or results of bad writing – than actual people we might relate to.

The Bronze bed

Melissa Rauch as a foul-mouthed, bratty bronze medalist in The Bronze. (Source)

The feature has good cinematography (kudos to the only winner here, Scott Henriksen). I liked the gymnastics of it, but we’re treated to more training scenes and not given enough cool scenes when Maggie is actually competing towards the end.

A sex scene between Rauch and Stan is overtly dark, likely to hide the super obvious Cirque du Soleil stunt doubles for Rauch, and quickly edited and a weaker aspect of the cinematography.

But the coitus feels longer than Maggie’s final display of gymnastics. It threatens to take over the rest of the film in terms of memorable raunchiness – which is saying something.

There’s a lot of raunch from the Rauch couple, but I think the only time I even chuckled was when Ben was having a bad twitch. Otherwise, I was questioning why it was billed as a comedy.

The film itself is mean-spirited overall, with Hope’s actions against everyone. But kudos to Rauch for branching out from her sitcom fame and bringing another unlikable, female antihero asshole to the big screen – as they’re so often portrayed by men. But it just isn’t funny, which is particularly disappointing.

It has none of the (slight) charm that worked for Jason Bateman’s Bad Words. I think that worked to a degree because Bateman actually has the comedic ability and sarcastic wit to believably portray a foul-mouthed, grown up spelling bee contestant.

But with The Bronze, Rauch doesn’t sell it. The language is raunchy, but it doesn’t make it funny. She isn’t believable as being foul-mouthed or aggressive – she looks too innocent. It really fails in almost every aspect and it’s a box office disaster for good reason: It sucks.

Score: 30/100

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Bad Words (2014)

Bad WordsReleased: March 28, 2014. Directed by: Jason Bateman. Starring: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney. Runtime: 89 min.

Bad Words is a shamelessly crude, rude, racist and mean-spirited comedy. But it’s funny mean-spirited fun, and inspired by the end of it all. To enjoy it, you’ll have to forget about your morals for ninety minutes. The main character is a largely immoral character who is shamelessly mean to kids. Remember when Cameron Diaz was like that to kids in 2011’s Bad Teacher? It’s like that, but way more effective. Jason Bateman’s directorial debut helps him prove in one stroke that he’s a good director, and his comedic delivery can actually make being mean to kids into something brutally hilarious.

Guy Trilby (Bateman) hates the world because of a rotten upbringing. His attitude makes him seem like a representation of America’s obsession with winning. One might wonder why he can sorta get away with being so mean to kids in the first place. Guy is often mean to kids on-stage, where it goes unnoticed; and he’s around many of them because he’s participating in a children’s spelling bee as an adult. He’s a strong speller who probably lost a spelling bee when he was a kid, and he wants revenge – but that angle’s never well-explained. He’s able to enter this spelling bee because of a loophole, where the speller may not have passed the eighth grade prior to a certain date. He enters it, to much controversy.

In the first scene when he wins a spelling bee to qualify for nationals (the Golden Quill Spelling Bee), he’s chased by a mob of angry parents. A woman spits at the car in slow motion. A man throws a chair at the car. The angry adults might just represent those in the audience who have their morals intact throughout, and really hate Guy. They’re angry because he’s competing, since it’s a competition made for children. Their hatred can get irritating.

Also amongst the ‘I Hate Guy Club’ include the director of the Golden Quill, Dr. Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney) and the founder of the Bee, Dr. Bowman (Phillip Baker Hall). Janney is good at playing this type of mean authority figure, even though she doesn’t get any laughs. Her hatred towards Guy is too out there at times, mostly in the way that the hotel room she books him is a one-cot supply closet. What’s more outrageous: The fact that the one-dimensonal hotel manager allows this. She also hates Trilby, which is odd since she’s not a parent of anyone in the Bee; or affiliated with the Bee, other than spelling bee competitors are staying in her hotel. Why does her face seem to be complaining if she’s making money? Apparently, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief as well as morals.

Since the parents are so angry, they tell their kids to stay away from the old guy. There’s one wayward son found in Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand). He befriends Guy, and the core of their mildly sweet relationship is that Chait needs a friend, and a father figure. An immoral and irresponsible father figure is better than a neglectful one, right? This relationship gives Guy some needed vulnerability. Bateman directs a decent performance out of Chand. He also includes a fun montage of them pulling pranks on unsuspecting citizens. One is deliciously raunchy. Bateman seems to enjoy doing montages and the occasional slow-motion sequence. His style’s pretty good, if familiar, and he’s equally shameless with tormenting children on-screen and his style behind the camera.

His comedic timing makes this film very funny. He’s one of Hollywood’s most likable actors playing one of the year’s biggest on-screen douchebags, but Bateman dominates the screen with a hilarious performance that is the film’s true great asset. Guy’s relationship with his online news outlet sponsor, Kathryn Hahn’s Jenny Widgeon, isn’t anything special. It’s basically a way to express his motivations, which are explained in the end in a lacklustre fashion. Her peculiar habit during sex musters big laughs. It is refreshing to see Kathryn Hahn in a role where she’s not always in-your-face raunchy. Bateman gets most of the crude lines. The crude comedy often relies on the raunch factor of it all.

The film’s predictable but entertaining, even though two stretches with few laughs make the comedic momentum suffer. What’s more impressive is that writer Andrew Dodge can make spelling bees a mildly entertaining thing. A main problem of the film is that it lacks much solidified substance.

Score67/100

March 28-30 Box Office Predictions: Swear words and Sabotage of biblical proportions

box office (1)Jason Bateman’s Bad Words is one of the new releases coming out this weekend, but it’s been in limited release since the 14th of March, and has grossed $837 thousand. It premiered at TIFF back in September, and it looks pretty awesome. Since one of the taglines is “suck my dictionary,” I’m really excited. I think it looks hilarious. I don’t think this will gross a lot this weekend; but I think $6.7 million is a good enough expectation.

Noah will be the winner this weekend. I think it’s more than guaranteed it’ll gross around $30 million this weekend, and $40 million is very likely, but I think it’ll be a huge surprise hit, much like last year’s World War Z. It’s of one of the three Biblical movies this weekend; it’s the second one after Son of God, and the next one will be Exodus. This stars Russell Crowe as the titular Noah; and it also stars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman. It’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. I’m ecstatic to see this. The story of Noah fascinates me, and I’m excited to see a new film about it, and I love Aronofsky’s style. I’ve only seen his film Black Swan, but I’m excited to see more. Similar films open to $33.49 million. My prediction for this film is $56.5 million.

Sabotage is David Ayer’s newest film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Malin Akerman and Sam Worthington. I think this film looks promising. Movies similar to this open at $13.86 million. I’m curious to see if Schwarzenegger’s star power and Ayer’s direction will allow this to gross near End of Watch‘s $13.15 million. Both of Schwarzenegger’s starring vehicles since his comeback haven’t grossed double digits in its opening weekend (excluding The Expendables 2). The Last Stand was a fun movie that made $6.3 million in its opening, and Escape Plan made $9.9 million (so close). Since Arnie obviously doesn’t have as much star power as he once did, but I’m going to say this grosses $9.5 million in its opening weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:

1. Noah: $56.5 million
2. Divergent: $28 million
3. Muppets Most Wanted: $10.883 million
4. Sabotage: $9.5 million
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel: $9 million
6. Bad Words: $6.7 million
7. Mr. Peabody & Sherman: $6.3 million
8. God’s Not Dead: $6 million
9. 300: Rise of An Empire: $4.2 million
10. Need for Speed: $3.8 million