Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ted Butters Up the Polisse

     In this crop of DVD reviews we cover a coming of age tale with scatalogical references, a French police procedural, and a clever little political satire.  Let's get hoppin...

  Butter - This is the first screenplay that writer Jason A. Micallef  has seen produced and he is to be congratulated.  This little satirical take on the 2008 election cycle is constantly charming and at times a little brilliant.  It could have been much more timely with an earlier release date, but thank goodness it was finally released this year.
     Kudos are also well deserved for director Jim Field Smith.  He manages to establish a tone that is just offset from reality.  Close enough that we still care about the characters.  Off enough that we keep looking for what else is being said.  He also pulls great performances from a strong ensemble cast including Ty Burrell, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, Alicia Silverstone, and Kristen Schaal.
     Two (well, three) performers really stand out, however.  First off, Yara Shahidi is fantastic in her first major film role.  She is cute without being precious. She is assertive without coming off as precoscious. Yet she is still just a child, and is often at her best when developing the parent/child relationship with foster father Rob Corddry, who is also pretty great in the movie.
     Finally, I must complement the lovely Jennifer Garner, who leads this cast most impressively.  Not only does she nail the role, but it is a character unlike any we've seen her play before.  I see newly proven range as a performer, and indications that she may make the transition out of her ingenue days more smoothly and successfully than had previously been anticipated.  See it...4 of 5 stars.

  Polisse - I'm a little perplexed as to what the Cannes jury that awarded this fillm its jury prize was thinking. There are some directors who can star in their own films while performing their other role quite effectively:  Woody Allen and Ben Affleck come to mind.  French actress turned auteur Maiwenn does not appear to be one of them.
     When this gambit fails, it is usually because too little attention is paid to either one's own performance or the performances of the ensemble and the tone of the film as a whole.  Polisse falls into the latter category.  In tone the film is like some cheesy seventies American cop buddy TV show.  There is a scene in a disco that fails to meet even that standard.  The director seems unable to even look beyond her own performance enough to guide Joey Starr, who overplays the role opposite her own.
     Maiwann's own performance is more solid, but Frederic Pierrot (Sarah's Key, I've Loved You For So Long) gets best in show.  The seasoned vet probably didn't require much direction.  These two performances save the film from an even lower rating, still...2 of 5 stars.

  Ted - Seth McFarland has been having a real break out year with the film industry.  He's hosting the Oscars, and has an actual nomination for Best Original Song.  All because of this little movie.  The summer film that was an unexpected critical and box office hit, relatively speaking.  I wanted to really like this movie, but, honestly, it was just OK.
     Mila Kunis was my favorite thing about the film.  She uses the same understated approach that works well for her on Family Guy.  It mostly plays here as well.
     I guess my problem with Ted is the same problem that I have with Family Guy.  One clever little thing that catches my attention and/or funny bone, then ten fart jokes.  All the time.  It stops being funny to me.  I may sound like the stodgy old guy, and maybe I'm just not cool enough.  I don't know...3 of 5 stars.

Related articles:  Restless Nostalgia is the Key (Sarah's Key review)

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