Sunday, May 15, 2011

REVIEW: Bridesmaids/Fast Five

And so the trend continues where I review two movies that might prompt readers to sing "One of these things is not like the other."

And no, I can't really find much common ground between Bridesmaids and Fast Five - not even in the sense of finding similar faults with them, as I did for Thor/Water for Elephants.

Ah, but in this crazy world we live in, the twain shall meet with Bridesmaids and Fast Five. Because I saw them back to back. At a drive-in, no less. And I hope that doubling was intentional. Something male driven versus something female driven. (Yes, pun intended)  One for him, one for her. The chick flick versus the dick flick.  One could even argue which movie is which. But both of them delivered even better than I expected.

Bridesmaids has been sold as a raunchy movie by girls for girls - sort of an estrogen-fueled Hangover.  And indeed, Bridesmaids proves that girls can drink, screw, and have a serious case of diarrhea onscreen  with the best of any men. Hell, Bridesmaids isn't five minutes old before it earns it R-rating.

But that's not what surprised me.

What surprised me - and what makes Bridesmaids more than just another raunchy comedy - is just how much heart it has.

That's not to say it gets all sticky and sweet and sentimental - at least, not to excess. What it does say is that Bridesmaids really loves its characters. And perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, considering the lead and the co-writer is Kristen Wiig.

Wiig is one of the most naturally funny women on the planet. She can take even the lamest SNL material (which is abundant) and make it funny with only body language. She's been great in supporting roles in Paul and Aventureland, but this is the first time she's had to carry a movie - and she does it with aplomb.

Wiig plays Annie, who is going through a rough time.  Her baking business went under, and she has precious little luck with men, always seeming to settle for the easy lay who takes advantage of her. So when her best friend since childhood Lillian (the always appealing Maya Rudolph) asks Annie to be her maid of honor, it seems like it's finally Annie's chance to shine - until she meets fellow bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne).

A game of one-upmanship ensues. It rankles Annie to no end that Helen and Lillian have only known each other a little while - yet Helen is one of those perky uber-organizers who seems to get nothing wrong - while everything Annie tries is a disaster.

As a number of Judd Apaptow-produced movies do, Bridesmaids goes on a bit too long, running more than two hours. The filmmakers could have stood to trim as much as 15 minutes from it, dropping some subplots that are repetitive, such as Annie's romance with a kindly cop.

When Bridesmaids works, though, it works very well indeed. The comic stuff is mostly dynamite, and I especially liked the work of Melissa McCarthy as bridesmaid Megan, who doesn't have to rely solely on "I'm fat" shtick to steal scenes left and right.

But while people will laugh at Wiig's breakdown on an airplane or the dress-fitting from hell (think Pepto) people will remember Bridesmaids because there's real feeling between the characters - not only between Annie and Lillian, but with Helen too, who turns out to be more of a human being than anyone expected.

And let's just say, without giving too much away, that if you were a Wilson Phillips fan back in the day, as I was, Bridesmaids will leave you with a giant smile on your face.


Fast Five left me with a smile on my face as well. And that was the biggest surprise of all to me.

I have long disavowed this franchise. When the original film came out, I wasn't all that impressed by the trailers - so I was surprised when it opened so well. I went to see it to find out what the fuss was all about. After I saw it, I still didn't know what all the fuss was about. Slackly directed by Rob Cohen, the film was neither fast nor particularly furious. Not to mention it boasted two of the most vacuous leads ever to stumble into movies, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

I thought the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, was marginally better because it had a better director in John Singleton, but marginally better in this case only meant "tolerably mediocre." So I bailed on Tokyo Drift and whatever they called the fourth one. I didn't feel like I missed anything.

So I wasn't going to bother with Fast Five at all, but then I saw the reviews were actually pretty decent. And when I saw it paired with Bridesmaids, I thought well, what the hell. And I'm glad I did. Because what the hell I got was what the first film should have been - a fast and furious B-movie.

Director Justin Lin, who has helmed the series since the third insallement, handles the action quite well. It's fast, yes, but not so fast as to be incomprehensible. There were quite a few moments when I said "Aw, bullshit" out loud - but I was smiling because Lin, unlike Cohen, doesn't take any of this terribly seriously.

Yes, Diesel and Walker are still stuck inside the proverbial paper bags, but what helps this fifth movie greatly is the presence of an actor with real charisma, Dwayne Johnson. He holds the screen as well as he usually does, which in this case means that when he and Diesel get into a fistfight, I was SO rooting for The Rock. It was actually kind of perversely fun.

The film struck me as a high-tech version of The Dukes of Hazzard, only without wry commentary by a balladeer like Waylon Jennings.  And hey, I loved the Dukes when I was a kid. This film does what any popcorn movie should. It brought out the 10-year-old kid in me.


1 comment:

Zack said...

Lin has totally revitalized this series. The first two have their pleasures, but TOKYO DRIFT is like a street-racing western and FAST & FURIOUS is a terrific adventure movie. FAST FIVE is best yet; the marriage of racing movie and heist movie is done so seamlessly here.