Friday, July 30, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

I didn’t expect a whole lot from Dinner for Schmucks; I assumed it would be kind of dumb actually. But I’m happy to report, the movie is hilarious. I’d say it’s this summer’s Hangover.

Paul Rudd plays Tim, an analyst for some kind of financial firm. He’s trying to make his way up the corporate ladder and needs to impress his boss. The boss and his cronies invite him to a special dinner, where each employee must bring an idiot so they can all have a laugh. Tim feels a little weird about that, but he eventually meets Steve Carell’s character, Barry, and decides he’s the perfect idiot.

The movie isn’t just about this dinner; that only happens at the end. This is really the story of how Tim meets Barry, and how Barry keeps screwing up Tim’s life. Tim wants to marry his girlfriend, but now that Barry is in the picture, things get pretty messed up.

Steve Carell is better than ever in Dinner for Schmucks. He could have easily taken this role too far. I think Carell must have some kind of alarm that goes off when he borders on over-the-top, something that Jim Carrey lacks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jim Carrey, but he would have ruined this movie. Carell brings a certain amount of pitiful to Barry, and you feel sorry for him. Everything about him is endearing, and that’s all due to Carell’s performance, which is on par with John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

You can tell when Tim first objects to the dinner for winners, that the movie has a sensitive spot. It definitely does. At first you say, yeah, these guys are total idiots. But then we get to know them and we see that their talents are pretty impressive. The moral of the story is obviously don’t invite people over just to make fun of them. It’s not an extraordinary message, but what I’m saying is, Dinner for Schmucks isn’t all schmuck jokes.

Barry’s talent is totally absurd, but only at first. After a while we realize that he’s amazing at what he does. The talent the writer’s created for him is truly an art form in itself, and it works on several levels. I’d really like to meet the prop designer. The other idiots at the dinner are similar. They seem ridiculous, but, in their own right, they’re very talented. The biggest idiot of them all is Kieran, played by Jemaine Clement, and he’s not even invited to the dinner. He’s an artist who’s very involved in his rather perverted craft, and works very closely with Tim’s curator girlfriend. I’ve never really followed the guy, but he’s brilliant here.

Dinner for Schmucks is just a really funny movie. The jokes just keep coming and they really aren’t too dirty or juvenile. For me, every joke is cleverly written, and just when you think they’re going too far, you’re hit with a totally different joke. It’s hilarious and I definitely see this as a dvd on regular viewing rotation, just like The Hangover.

4 mice

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Toy Story 3

When I was 15, I went to a computer convention in New Orleans. Aside from a crazy stripper trying to pull me into a Bourbon Street burlesque, the highlight of my trip was a convention booth run by Pixar. Little was known of Pixar at the time, but computer animation was the new thing on the horizon. The Pixar people demonstrated a new animation tool called Renderman, with a little movie they were making. That movie was Toy Story and I'd never seen anything like it. I was instantly hooked. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. They let me fill out an application and said they’d keep it on file. I wanted to be a Pixar animator so bad I majored in art (which quickly changed to English, but that’s another story).

Toy Story was eventually released and I loved it. When Toy Story 2 came out, I was a little disappointed. It felt more like a straight-to-video release. So I wasn’t overly excited for Toy Story 3. It looked funny of course, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was pleasantly surprised. Toy Story 3 is the best movie Pixar has ever made.

Andy is off to college and the toys we remember have been sitting in the toy chest. What’s interesting is that all the voice actors return. Even Andy is played by the same kid all grown up. The toys are dealing with some pretty serious emotions now. They’ve lost some toys over the years, just as people do, and they’re worried about their own fates as well. Through a comedic mix-up, the toys end up in a daycare facility run by Lots O' Huggin' Bear, a disgruntled purple bear that smells like strawberries.

The toys deal with so many emotions over the course of this movie, you easily forget that they are toys. They are actually more convincing than real actors. The toys experience grief, fear, anger, joy, and resentment. You’d assume that in a kid’s movie, the toys would be forever happy and devoted to Andy, but they’re not always. The climax in which the toys come to terms with their fate is so powerful and emotional that the scene stayed with me the rest of the day. I could barely drive home.

The movie is not all sad like most people are saying. There are some pretty destitute moments, but the message is completely positive. The film is so clever and funny, it will just make you happy. The actions sequences are also cleverly devised and would please any action fan. So much so that I would even go as far to say that while this movie is perfect, it’s probably not perfect for kids. Lots O' Huggin' and his chronie, Big Baby, are kind of scary and the climax is pretty intense. A child would not understand the final scene's significance. So it's up to you if you bring them or not, but they won't appreciate it as much as you will, and they'll probably cry but not for the same reasons you're going to.

Toy Story 3 is a wonderful tribute to the characters we all know and love. Pixar could have very easily just come up with a simple story using the same old toys and done just as well at the box office. Instead, they created a masterpiece that exceeds the first and second film. The favorites return along with tons more, and they are all given screen time and funny jokes. You can really tell how much the writers love their characters. The new toys they've created are brilliant too. Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton, is hilarious. Some will say Ken's love of fashion and glitter is homophobic, but I really don't think so - he's just a girl toy, and girl toys get dressed up and play house.

The artistry and animation of Toy Story 3 is amazing. I didn't think I’d ever see computer animation as beautiful as Wall-E, but this one tops them all. There are so many toys at the daycare and all of them are detailed and colorful. Each toy has movements specific to what kind of toy they are. Even the walls of the daycare, you know that painted brick all schools have, are natural. You can see the little bumps and everything. It just fascinates me that it was probably one animator’s job to get the bricks looking just right.

Toy Story 3 is beautiful to look at and a beautiful experience overall. I predict that it will win best animated feature, as well as best picture, if that's allowed. This movie has inspired the artist in me again and I can only hope that one day I'll be involved in something as great. Of course, it receives the highest rating any movie has received on this blog:

5 stickers.


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