The Films of Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Blades of Glory (March 29/07)
Blades of Glory marks the latest in a seemingly endless line of unremarkable comedies featuring Will Ferrell, following such lackluster efforts as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Kicking & Screaming, and Bewitched. And although the film does initially hold some promise - how could it not, really, with a supporting cast that includes (among others) Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, and William Fichtner - there's ultimately no overlooking the repetitive and exceedingly uneven vibe that's been hard-wired into the proceedings. The story follows two arch-enemies within the skating world - Ferrell's Chazz Michael Michaels and Jon Heder's Jimmy MacElroy - as they're begrudgingly forced to team up following their total ban from the world of singles skating. As has been the case with most of Ferrell's post-SNL output, Blades of Glory essentially consists of a series of sketches surrounding a high-concept premise - ensuring that, while there are a number of genuinely funny bits here and there, there's simply nothing holding the entire production together. The cast is certainly not at fault; Ferrell delivers a go-for-broke performance that's admittedly quite amusing, while the supporting cast - particularly Arnett and Poehler - generally does a nice job of keeping things interesting throughout (Heder seems to be the only weak link here, as the actor offers up the same schtick he's been relying on since hitting it big with Napoleon Dynamite). But despite the film's few positive attributes, there's just no getting around the feeling that Blades of Glory is essentially a one-note gimmick that's egregiously been padded out to feature length.
A conventional yet entertaining romantic comedy, The Switch follows Jason Bateman's Wally Mars as he's forced to stand idly by as his best friend (Jennifer Aniston's Kassie) prepares to have a baby with a sperm donor (Patrick Wilson's Roland) - despite the fact that Wally and Kassie clearly have romantic feelings for one another. It's Wally's drunken decision to switch Roland's sperm sample with his own that kicks the movie's shopworn plot into motion, as Wally is inevitably forced to confront his true feelings for Kassie after it becomes increasingly clear that he is the father of her son. It's immediately clear that directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck aren't looking to reinvent the wheel here, as the filmmakers have infused The Switch with an almost excessively familiar feel that's initially offset by the lighthearted atmosphere and Bateman's expectedly charismatic performance. (Aniston, on the other hand, is as stiff and unconvincing as ever.) The decidedly intriguing (and somewhat impossible-to-predict) plot twist involving Wally's switch effectively injects the proceedings with a burst of energy, and it's clear that the film, once it jumps ahead several years, gets plenty of mileage out of the palpable chemistry between Bateman's character and his five-year-old son (Thomas Robinson's Sebastian). There's little doubt, however, that the hackneyed turns in Allan Loeb's screenplay become more and more difficult to stomach as time progresses, with the movie's inevitable transformation into a stereotypical romcom, complete with a love triangle and fake break-up, ensuring that it ultimately peters out to a rather demonstrable degree. Still, The Switch, for the most part, comes off as a passable endeavor that benefits substantially from Bateman's ongoing efforts (as well as the efforts of an off-kilter supporting cast that includes Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis).
Office Christmas Party
Office Christmas Party follows Jason Bateman's Josh Parker as he conspires to win over an important client by throwing an epic holiday shindig, with the movie detailing the inevitable complications that crop up as the title happening grows more and more out of control. Before it transforms into a complete endurance test, Office Christmas Party comes off as a relatively affable comedy that's elevated by the charismatic work of its stars - with Bateman's typically engaging turn matched by an eclectic supporting cast that includes T.J Miller, Kate McKinnon, and Rob Corddry. (Jennifer Aniston, cast as a ruthless CEO, delivers a shrill, joyless performance that's become par for the course for the erstwhile sitcom actress.) The movie's shift from watchable to progressively interminable is triggered by its episodic midsection, with scripters Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer's increasingly monotonous emphasis on the larger-than-life party compounded by a series of subplots that simply don't work. (This is unquestionably exemplified by a horrendously unfunny narrative thread involving a prostitute and her female pimp.) And although the film, past a certain point, seems to hit a plateau of mediocrity, Office Christmas Party takes a steep dive into absolutely tedium with an action-packed third act that seems to go on and on (and even boasts a laughable attempt at last-minute sentimentality) - which ensures that the movie joins the ranks of an almost impossibly long list of substandard contemporary comedies.