Get Hard (2015)

Released: March 27, 2015. Directed by Etan Cohen. Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie. Runtime: 1hr, 40 min.

Get Hard might be a rip-off of other films, but it isn’t flaccid.

The Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy borrows elements from 1983’s Trading Places, where the two primary characters come from jarringly different worlds. Ferrell’s James

King is a Harvard-educated millionaire who just made partner at his place of work.

It’s not crystal-clear what he actually does for a living, but all you have to know is that early on the film, he is arrested for multiple counts of fraud and embezzlement and is sentenced to ten years in prison.

An intensely biased judge gives him the harshest possible sentence at San Quentin prison, because white collar citizens like King have been getting away with light pleas for far too long. This is probably the film’s most frustrating and uninspired occurrence.

Anyway, King meets Kevin Hart’s Darnell Lewis and assumes he has went to prison because of his race, perceived lack of education and social standing. He seeks his help in training him in his expertise in surviving prison. Darnell only agrees because of his need for money to buy a new home to get his family out of a dangerous Californian neighborhood.

And of course, he really hasn’t been to prison and has to base his “How to survive prison” tips on black stereotypes and vague advice from his cousin Russell, portrayed by T.I., who has connections in prison with his gang called the Crenshaw Kings.

Darnell means well and he’s just trying to make some money, but these two characters are really in the same boat in how little they know about prison – King is just a bit more ignorant about the subject of prison, and general sensitivity, than Lewis.

I think that’s why the dynamic works – that neither of them know what they’re doing – and allows it to be a bit different than the 2007 Rob Schneider vehicle, Big Stan. Basically, this is a blatant, stereotypical rip-off of that lacklustre film, but it builds on it with a stronger cast and a more interesting story.

Kevin Hart gets a few of the film’s biggest laughs and there about five hilarious scenes. The film’s at its best when it simulates a yard scene where gangs fight over basic ownership of King. It is also quite funny when King tries to get in touch with his hip hop side and adopts the persona of Mayo.

Ferrell is good, if sporadically awkward. He was better in 2010’s The Other Guys as his soft Allen Gamble, at one point stepping into the role of a pimp called Gator. The character in that film is funnier and better developed, though Ferrell does have his moments as a character reviled by many, especially his at-home helpers.

King’s bank accounts are frozen, and the only reason they stay behind to still work for him is to get back at him for the general mistreatment. King does deserve some empathy for his entire life being turned upside down, and losing an incredibly sexy fiancé portrayed by Community’s Alison Brie, whose shallowness is portrayed by her being more upset by a ruined party than her fiancé being arrested.

To be fair, that party did have John Mayer in a mildly amusing cameo, where he goes on live television to sing about the monstrous King potentially getting sexually assaulted in San Quentin. If that doesn’t convince you to at least rent it, I don’t think anything will.

2.5 stars

The Lego Movie (2014)

The Lego MovieReleased: February 7, 2014. Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman. Runtime: 100 min.

“The LEGO Movie” isn’t just a great animated film, it’s filled with humour and satirical jabs at corporate America, namely the leader of the lego world being called President Business; the fact that if you’re on TV, people are going to listen to you; and coffee being priced at $37 for the public (here’s looking at you and your overpriced coffee, Starbuck’s). It’s a clever take on totalitarianism, a sort-of dictatorship where a leader has full control over a part of society. President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) takes control by giving good citizens tacos, distracting citizens by a TV show called “Where’s my pants?” after he says “Non-behaving citizens will be put to sleep!” If that show wouldn’t be distracting, I don’t know what would be. He also keeps the people satisfied by a catchy song that literally plays on every radio station called “Everything is Awesome.”

How did the tyrannical President Business get into power, you might ask? In another realm of the LEGO universe (where he is known as Lord Business), he stole a super weapon called the Kragl from the master of all master builders, Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), which grants him ultimate power. Before Business is able to take it, V speaks of a prophecy – a master builder who finds the piece of Resistance will come along and be the most talented, most brilliant and most important person ever and challenge Business’ plans to glue the universe together.

The person who fills this prophecy is not one that you might expect. He, Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a completely ordinary LEGO minifigure that looks like all the rest of the LEGOs, and he becomes the one to fill this prophecy completely by accident. There’s a charm about it because it’s so unexpected that the one will be so ordinary, making this feel like a subtle underdog story, at least to me. It boasts a message that everyone is special in their own way, even if you don’t think so at first. To all the master builders of the universe, this guy looks totally useless; mostly because he’s a victim of conformity in the realm Pres Business rules. Emmet’s favourite song is “Everything is Awesome,” his favourite TV show is “Where’s my pants?” and he follows instructions because he wants tacos. Building instructions helps Emmet, and otherwise, he doesn’t know what to do without them. (The difference between him and other master builders is funny because it’s hard for original thinkers to follow instructions, it seems).

Business is a clever ruler because by giving these people instructions, he doesn’t let them have a solitary original thought. He needs everything to be in tip-top-shape, and he asks for perfection at every turn, not letting anyone build anything that they want. I think a main message of the film is imagination, something the President doesn’t believe in, at all.

Since master builders can build something out of nothing, I think this film urges children all over the world to use their imagination and create cool LEGO structures, and use their imagination in other parts of life. To build something out of nothing, and it says that everyone can be a master builder if they want to be. I think there’s sheer brilliance in the idea that this world looks like it could be derived from the minds of children, but I don’t think the story would be as smart. The settings are just stunning and creative, and some might particularly like the animation used in the smoke, explosions and water. It’s a whole world made of LEGO, and it’s incredibly detailed (the great animation is thanks to Animal Logic) This film is, of course, also nice advertisement for the LEGO product, but it is a lot more layered than just a big toy advertisement like the “G.I. Joe” flicks or the blockbuster franchise “Transformers”.

The humour will keep both children and adults entertained, because writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have such referential and clever senses of humour. They reference things from “The Terminator” to “Clash of the Titans” to “The Godfather”, and one of the realm’s names is a clever play on the world in “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (Middle Zealand – a mash of Middle Earth and New Zealand, the filming location of those films). There are a lot of big laughs in this, and some spectacular action sequences, where teamwork is used; making this sort-of like the superhero teamwork movie many anticipate. I enjoyed this as much as I wanted to enjoy “The Avengers.” With the film’s humour, Lord and Miller are experienced to entertain both children and adults, by tackling animated movies (the two “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” films) and R-rated action comedies (“21 Jump Street”). The real charm about the Lord/Miller pair is that they keep surprising us with films that could be decent, but turn out to be pretty extraordinary; and this is no different. One character they created I was amused by is Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson), who plays to the Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy used by interrogators. He has a bit of a split personality, you can say, but I’ll let you watch that hilarity unfold for yourselves.

The other characters are great because they are great presences. Emmet is a relateable hero because he is so average, and his love interest Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is great because they are so alike in ways. Other characters on the lovable LEGO save the world team include a crazed pirate called Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), an all-too positive cat with a unicorn horn called UniKitty (Alison Brie), 1970s Space Guy named Ben (Charlie Day) and the hilarious caped orphan himself, Batman (Will Arnett)! There are many other classic characters at the meeting of the Master Builders (ones from the DC Universe, among a lot of others), and they’re great cameos – but nothing more, really. It’s good because if they were more, the film would be too crowded. There’s enough characters and hilarity to keep the film moving at a brisk pace.

Score96/100

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2Released: December 18, 2013. Directed by: Adam McKay. Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd. Runtime: 119 min.

Staying true to the original’s colours, “Anchorman 2” starts out with absurd humour: Ron Burgundy being chased by a shark. But that’s not how the story begins, it’s just how the film begins; our story starts in New York, at the latter end of 1980. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) gets fired from his reporting gig, and, three months later, he is offered a spot on an innovative news channel called GNN, which is going to be the first ever 24-hour news channel. Ron has to get the news team back together where he reunites with Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Together, they will change the face of broadcast journalism without even realizing it.

“Anchorman 2” is another very good collaboration between director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell. It might not be as good as the original, but it still brings about some very successful and consistent laugh-out-loud moments. It isn’t as great as the original because it follows a storyline that is similar to the first one. Very similar, it seems to me. Ron gets too big of a head sometimes and the story teaches that important people can re-route his life and show him the way. These certain people are his ex-wife Veronica Corningstone (whom he splits up with when she gets a promotion), and his son Walter (Judah Nelson) who is annoying and cheesy. He gets a few chuckles, but that doesn’t make up for his crappy presence.

It seems to me Walter is in the film so it doesn’t feel so familiar to the first, but the truth is, he just bloats the plot too much. The film is a minute shy of two hours, and it’s too long. He is an okay intention from writers McKay and Ferrell, but it’s a misstep – because there shouldn’t be cuteness in a film that has so much bizarrely funny humour. It’s still fairly friendlier than an average comedy as it’s PG-13 and it has only one use of the F-bomb. The film has some great satire of the over-saturated news market because of all the stations it has, which allows enables the flick to have a lot of cameos that are alone worth the admission price.

James Mardsen portrays the villain of this film, practically being the new rival, one who replaces Vince Vaughn of the first. Ron’s ego is also an enemy to himself. His relationships with others is funny, like his African American boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). If you thought it was challenging for him to have a woman co-anchoring with him in the first; now he’s working for a female black person! Sweet Odin’s raven! Suffice to say, racism is featured here and there, but it’s handled lightly and in comedic ways. Anyway, Ron is consistently funny, even when his ego is huge, because Ferrell is great at being a cocky asshole. The supporting characters are still pretty awesome. Brian Fantana is still the sex fiend he has always been, and Champ Kind is pretty good, he’s hit and miss for me. Brick Tamland  is freaking awesome and so very funny. He is random and I love it. He gets a love interest this time around found in Kristen Wiig which is comedic.

Of course it’s comedic, since it is a comedy. This might not be the greatest comedy of 2013 but it’s consistently funny and even funnier if it is your type of humour. I would probably place this in my top 5 favourite comedies of 2013, however. I’d really like to see this again sometime soon, because it is quite entertaining, if too long. It’s also exciting to see the news men make news so entertaining for once, because I’d actually watch the news if it were more like this. The wait was also too long for this sequel, so if they make another involving ageism this time, it better come soon.

Score77/100

Everything Must Go (2010)

Everything Must GoEverything Must Go

Release Date: May 13, 2011

Director: Dan Rush

Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace

Runtime: 97 min

When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.

Everything Must Go is a little dramedy feature about alcoholism and it’s slow, but it is undeniably sweet at its core and can be very charming. The relationship between Ferrell and Wallace’s characters is great to watch grow. Many might not appreciate this for what it truly is because they are expecting laugh-out-loud comedy, but it very much is a dramedy, with drama coming first. It does have a few laughs, but you could count them on your hands. It’s worth a watch, but it isn’t wholly memorable nor does it require repeat viewings, but Ferrell gives a great performance.

70/100

The Campaign (2012)

The CampaignThe Campaign

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: May the best loser win

After Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) accidentally dials the wrong number and leaves a sexual message on a stranger’s answering machine, his local likeability plummets. Two CEOs, Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Aykroyd) Motch, see this an opportunity to oust the long-term candidate and gain further influence on this North Carolina district. Brady, a man who usually runs unopposed, meets his biggest match yet: the extremely naive and all-too-kind Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis).

 
This is a decent political satire. It may be offensive to some – but it was usually very funny. However, the humour can get very obnoxious. The character of Cam Brady gets a little lame, as all he really cares about is sex and power. Granted, what else can you really expect from a Will Ferrell character? Usually, his characters are funny – but the writing just makes him come off as rude and, worst of all, usually unfunny. However, he does have his moments, and when those come, they’re pretty awesome – because we’re seeing Ferrell shine again. Brady’s campaign advisor, Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), is also rather unfunny. The only really funny characters are Marty Huggins, sometimes Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) and Mrs. Yao (Karen Maruyama), Raymond Huggins’ Asian maid who gets paid extra to talk in a 1960’s black maid voice.

 
While only half the characters are usually funny, the plot isn’t all that amazing. It’s decent, but the political battles are pretty boring. Also, Marty’s change of attitude starts to get irritating after a while – since his life and his family life gets enveloped by the campaign. He doesn’t have much time for his family any more, and he starts to act a bit like the obnoxious Brady. That’s isn’t good, as I have not subtly expressed my dislike of Brady. He is most likeable when he’s enjoying life with his family. Especially near the beginning, one of the funniest scenes is the Huggins’ dinner table confessions. After that, it resorts to a few lame jokes like punching a baby in the face. That scene may have been more effective if they hadn’t shown it in the trailer, because it would have added to the comedy shock factor. It got to a point of tastelessness because it was done in a slow-motion, boxing fashion. However, when a dog gets punched by Brady – that’s hilarious. Does that mean I’m a dog hater? No, that punch was simply done much better because it wasn’t as overdone.

 
The idea of two great comedians – Will Ferrell (who has brought us classic characters like Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy) and Zach Galifianakis (more commonly known as Alan from The Hangover because his last name is just so bothersome to spell) – working together on a rude comedy like this is so much better than the end product. And (partly) because of this, the film is not satisfying enough. The Campaign turns out to be a usually funny, but sometimes boring and lame, political satire. There are some scenes that make it worth the watch, but mostly, it’s nothing to recommend wholeheartedly. Regardless of all that, you all better vote Marty Huggins so Chinese factories can be kept out of North Carolina!

60/100