Rom Com Glom. Films Reviewed: The Switch, Going the Distance, No Heart Feelings plus: Types of movies to avoid; and A New Toronto Movement?

Posted in Acting, Animals, Anthropology, Bad Movies, Canada, comedy, Cultural Mining, drugs, Movies, Romantic Comedy, Sex, Uncategorized, video games by CulturalMining.com on September 2, 2010

Have you ever walked into a multiplex and discovered you’re too late for the movie you planned to see? But since you’re already there…How do you know what to go to, and what to avoid at all costs? Are there any clues?

Well, no rule is steadfast, but here are a few types of movies that you should not go to:

Don’t go to movies with a number in its title or where a number is the title

Don’t go to movies based on video games,

Disneyland rides,

or 60’s TV sitcoms

Don’t go to movies directed by bad actors

Don’t go to live-action movies where the main character is a talking animal

Don’t go to movies without a single positive review quoted in the ad

And never, ever go to movies with two directors!

And then there’s types of movie.

Why is it, that so many comedies, especially romantic comedies, suck? I’m going to look at three of them now, some of which worked better than others… I’ll do them in ascending order, by number of directors.

“Going the Distance”

Dir: Nanette Burstein

Garret (Justin Long) goes off to a bar to get sheet-faced drunk after his girlfriend dumps him for ordering take out and not giving her a present. “But you said no presents”. “Because you’re supposed to want to give me one…” At the bar he meets Erin (Drew Barrymore), a vintage arcade game champ. She’s in New York in an internship at a newspaper – she’s 31. Times are tough. So they end up in bed together, even after seeing his Top Gun movie poster-themed apartment. In fact his eccentric roommate plays background music through the thin walls whenever their whispered pillow talk inspires him.

But at the end of the summer, she’s back in San Francisco, and he’s in Manhattan. Life is tough. Should they stay together? Will their relationship endure in two coastal cities? Or will one of them take the plunge and move..?

The boyfriend has two goofy hipster sidekick friends, one of whom has the world’s worst douche-stache on his upper lip. The girlfriend lives with her sister and brother-in-law, who make weird sexual references, and give her humorously uptight advice.

This is an ok comedy. They’re a nice couple, who obviously are in love. In fact Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are a couple in real life as well as in the movie. She’s always a great actress. He’s just OK. He’s mainly known as the I’m Mac, I’m PC guy from the commercials, and you may have seen him this year as the boyfriend in Sam Raimi’s funny horror movie Drag me to Hell. The sister character played by Christina Applegate is very funny. Not too bad a movie, but not very good.

“The Switch”

Dir: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

In this movie, Kassie (Jennifer Anniston) decides it’s time to have a kid. She goes the self-insemination route, and holds a big sperm party for her friends. But her neurotic friend Wally (Jason Bateman) has a crush on her and feels rejected. He gets drunk and finds, in the bathroom, a little jar lying around. What’s that? It’s the sperm. Why’s it just lying there? Who knows? Oops! He spills it. Better replace it…

Naturally, that one switch, means she gets inseminated not by the blond mountain-climbing Columbia prof of feminist theory, but rather old pal neurotic Wally. And she moves to Minnesota, where, apparently,  they live in cabins without phones. So when she decides to move back to NY, 7 years later, she lets Wally know she has a 7 year-old son! And she’s letting the kid meet his biological father, the now divorced prof. Will Wally tell her he’s the baby’s father? And will he tell her he still has a crush on her? And will he get along with the genetically neurotic son?

So this is still the beginning of the movie. Basically there’s nothing left to happen in terms of the plot. They hang out, they get to know each other, he competes with the supposed donor, he helps the kid with his headlice, blah blah blah.

The thing is – it’s not funny. It has a unbelievably weak plot. It’s not consistent, the actors  — and they’re all good, Anniston, Bateman, jeff Goldblum, and long-time-no-see Juliette Lewis – look like they’re reading lines that were written on a napkin. And the characters don’t make sense. The mother has no real backstory — you don’t know who she is or what she does, or even what interests her – she’s a baby vessel. Jason Bateman’s character is supposed to be neurotic… except he’s not. He’s just a mildly depressed guy. Everythng about this movie is stupid. The feminist theory professor is a dumb jock, while the wall street trader is deeply intellectual. You even get a bruise on the kid’s face migrating around his cheek from scene to scene.

So if you’re on an airplane or an all-night bus ride, sure, watch it. Otherwise… why not go to the Kids are All Right instead, to see a much better insemination comedy. Or just check out the next movie I’m reviewing…

“No Heart Feelings”

Dir: Sarah Lazarovic, Geoff Morrison, Ryan J. Noth

Here’s a movie with not two, but three director/writers! Uh-oh… does that mean it’s even worse than “The Switch”? No! Just the opposite.

Mel (Rebecca Kohler) dumps her long-distance boyfriend by telephone. (At least she didn’t do it by texting.) Even though she did the dumping, she feels like crap so her friend gets her drunk so she can vent and recover. And in her bounce-back semi-inebriated state, she meets Lewis, (Dustin Parkes)

a nice guy, who’s just returned to Toronto after a while away. They have sex, and sorta hit it off… kinda. Mel’s a bit awkward about the whole thing. And Lewis isn’t sure. They both, separately, decide to keep it “super caj” – no commitments or anything. But there’s definitely a spark.

The movie’s super casual too – it’s the exact opposite of a high concept movie. It reminds me of Bruce McDonald’s movie, a few months back, This Movie is Broken. People in their 20’s or 30’s, hanging out in downtown Toronto and just living the life… in the nice, green summertime.

Some people are losing their jobs or working at ridiculous ones that have no meaning beyond forwarding PDFs or watching lolcats all day. It can be frustrating. One character says “I have five bosses — altogether they have one sense of humour.

But they all have people around them in widening ripples: best friends, groups of buddies, party acquaintances, the people they say hi to on the street.

Mel and Lewis run into friends on Spadina, and talk about work, condos, food…they wander around dollar stores in Chinatown, the wading pool in Kensington Market,  401 Richmond building, hotdog stand at Queen and Spadina, College Street, breakfast at Aunties and Uncles, badminton in what looks like Trinity Bellwoods Park, a garage sale, a gallery opening, and biking everywhere in the streets alleys and the bike paths in the ravines.

They finally all end up at one of the friends’ cottage for an awkward reunion. Will they end up together?

Well, it’s not that kind of a romantic comedy. The comedy is mainly in the comments of all the wise-cracking group of friend, not the “awkward situations” you usually get stuck with. This one is just a very low-key, nice slice of downtown Toronto life. It’s what a reality show should look like, but never does. And it proves that three directors can put together a sweet and coherent story, about people you wouldn’t mind hanging out with.

I get the impression that there’s a new Toronto film movement forming right around now. Movies where the city plays itself instead of other places; where there’s a laid back vibe, and where there’s a lot of recognizable landmarks — movies like Scott Pilgrim, This Movie is Broken, and now No Heart Feelings.

I hope it continues to flourish.

(More on the Toronto Movement to come….)

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