4 December 2014

Capsule Reviews: Horrible Bosses 2, Laggies, St. Vincent

Horrible Bosses 2 (Sean Anders, USA, 2014)

Amusing but stretched sequel to the 2011 sleeper. Reuniting Bateman, Day and Sudeikis, the film now has the boys as incompetent entrepreneurs cheated by Christoph Waltz’s savvy megalomaniac. In response and as a means to repair their fresh financial predicament, they decide to kidnap Waltz’s Bret Easton Ellis –lite son (a game Chris Pine). Idiocy, misunderstanding and improvisation ensue.

“Horrible Bosses 2” opened softly last weekend, eradicating hopes of a trilogy. Probably not a bad thing. Sean Anders’ sequel is energetically directed, stumbling over the finish-line due to amiability and a few, really well placed belly laughs, but it never feels essential, or even necessary. The feature sets the tone early, re-establishing the three stooges chemistry between the stars (still strong), before eliciting early groans with wearisome gay panic and race gags. When the plot ignites the jokes sharpen, blessed with the infectious bickering of the leads, and forced but ebullient returns to the fold from Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston. The latter is in particularly vivacious form – surplus to the storytelling – but an anarchic joy to behold. The turn is more knowing and relaxed this time around, allowing the actress a freedom that loosens the character, eradicating some of the superficial contrivances that hampered her work in 2011. She’s not trying as hard, and subsequently seems more at home. Waltz and Pine are ample additions, but never threaten to overshadow the returning crowd.

Much like previous directorial foray (“That’s My Boy”) Anders displays comfortability with imaginative vulgarity, but also an indulgent hand in the edit. At nearly two hours “Horrible Bosses 2” lacks the immediacy and crackle of the initial picture, especially during the thinly penned finale. Earns its stripes on the back of crude, dirty giggles, but only fans of the original need apply. Even then, you should probably wait until it hits NetFlix. 

Grade - B-

Laggies (Lynn Shelton, USA, 2014)

Lynn Shelton’s indie is remarkably likable and quick-witted, but is most notable for drawing career best work from Keira Knightley. The British actress carries certain worthiness, but has always preferred portraying characters as opposed to people. In some of her work that approach has proven intelligent (the “Pirates” franchise and Jane Austen adaptations), but shorn her grounded dramatic oeuvre of tangible warmth (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”). “Laggies” presents her with a flawed character (a 30-year old besotted by arrested development) and allows the actress to exercise a range of beautifully articulated vulnerabilities, alongside a comic side rarely touched. 

It helps that the script courtesy of Andrea Seigel is so honest and concise. Siegel  has a believable knack for capturing adolescence, both in Megan’s mental state and amid the kids (headed by Chloe Grace Moretz) she begins hanging out with. “Laggies” avoids overblown drama or a romancing of teenage freedom, instead painting the process as one of liberation, maturation and na├»ve pain. “Laggies” also continues to prove one of contemporary Hollywood’s best rules; if you can have Sam Rockwell in your movie, put Sam Rockwell in your movie. 

Grade - B+

St. Vincent  (Theodore Melfi, USA, 2014)

Doggedly warm, but only a lick better than average. Murray develops his crotchety archetype into a very human form, upgrading some of Theodore Melfi’s melodramatic writing into justifiably heart-breaking material.  Melissa McCarthy redeems herself after the abysmal "Tammy", giving an understated and sensitive portrayal of a single mother, whilst Naomi Watts is bizarrely over the top as a European stripper.

“St. Vincent” is obvious to a fault, but it sidesteps the threat of potential cynicism and schmaltz.  Most of the credit should go to the cast, but I suppose Melfi deserves some measure of applause for restraint. He doesn't often move away from formula, but the finale aside, he never seems to be begging for tears or Oscars either. The film has a jovial honesty and moderate heart, even if both feel generic. 

Grade - B-

Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2014


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