All three come from filmmakers who have created some of my favorite movies of the past few years, and so I had pretty high expectations going into each one. Sadly, none reached the heights I had hoped for.
Horrible Bosses delivers enough laughs to overcome a soft ending.
Everyone in the cast nails the tone, but it’s Day (the least well known member) who steals the show. The manic personality he has spent years developing on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia transfers wonderfully to the big screen, and he dials it back enough to make the character realistic without losing anything on the comedy end.
As important as acting can be, the pacing on something like this is everything, and director Seth Gordon does a fine job in that regard. Gordon made one of my favorite films of the past several years – the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it) – so it’s nice to see him back on good footing after the dreadful Four Christmases.
|30 Minutes or Less has all the ingredients to deliver|
something awesome. It doesn't.
The story is intriguing too* – in order to get the money to pay a hitman to off his rich dad, Dwayne (McBride) and his buddy Travis (Swarsdon) strap a bomb to the chest of slacker pizza delivery guy Nick (Eisenberg) and make him rob a bank. For help, Nick calls upon best friend Chet (Ansari) with whom Nick’s currently feuding due to having slept with his twin sister (Dilshad Vadsaria).
*The movie is actually inspired by a pretty bleak real-life robbery. If you have time, I fully recommend the story Wired posted on the whole incident a few years back. It's sad, fascinating, and could've made a great Coen Brothers film.While there are some nice moments (McBride and Swarsdon do nice work, there's a cute nod to Eisenberg's role in the Social Network, and the bank robbery features a hilarious bit concerning a dye pack), the film never really settles in. There’s a sense that we are supposed to care for these characters, but the script doesn’t earn it, and the movie is not helped by the stilted energy between Eisenberg and Ansari. Their friendship should be the heart of the movie, but it just doesn’t play.
When compared to something like Pineapple Express, a zany, action-oriented buddy comedy that actually nails its landing, the flaws of 30 Minutes or Less become even more evident. That film had two leads with wonderful chemistry and escalated the weirdness to some ridiculous (and wonderful) levels. This one just sort of sits there, and, in the end, feels like the rough draft of a far better (and funnier) film.
|This screenshot from Paul concerns an anal probe joke.|
Paul is a nice enough diversion, but it’s mostly a generic, family-friendly, sci-fi lark that has been dirtied up by some lewd language. I liked the idea that Paul has been the driving force behind how pop culture views aliens, and there is a low-key charm to the proceedings, but the film isn’t really that funny. That normally wouldn’t be a big problem for me – director Greg Mottola’s Adventureland wasn’t that funny either, and it’s still a personal favorite of mine. But unlike that film, and Mottola’s Superbad for that matter, the characters are pretty one-note and uncomplicated, and so funny becomes more of a necessity. Making matters worse, the bond between Paul and his human friends (the crux of the story), isn’t believably developed, and that really handicaps a movie like this.
Overall, I’d give all three films passing grades, with diminishing returns going from to Horrible Bosses to Paul to 30 Seconds or Less. Horrible Bosses should have some solid replay value on cable down the line, but it’s hard to believe I’d stop channel surfing for a second viewing of either of the other two.