The Films of Paul Feig
Life Sold Separately
I Am David
Unaccompanied Minors (January 4/16)
Unaccompanied Minors follows a selection of bland teenagers as they're forced into an airport's holding area after their respective flights are cancelled, with the bulk of the proceedings detailing the protagonists' efforts to both escape their chaotic quarters and, eventually, evade a series of one-dimensional authority figures (including Lewis Black's Oliver Porter, Wilmer Valderrama's Zach Van Bourke, and Rob Riggle's Hoffman). There's exceedingly little within Unaccompanied Minors that wholeheartedly works, as filmmaker Paul Feig has infused the narrative with a disastrously over-the-top feel that strikes all the wrong notes right from the get-go - with the film's aggressively frenetic vibe perpetuated primarily by its broad performances and relentless action. The almost unconscionably juvenile atmosphere holds the viewer at arms length for the duration of the interminable running time, and it's certainly difficult to see the entertainment value in the various set pieces proffered by scripters Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark (eg the kids frolic in the lost-luggage holding area, the kids run from assorted guards, etc, etc). By the time the eye-rollingly sentimental final stretch rolls around, which the movie hasn't even come close to earning, Unaccompanied Minors has definitively confirmed its place as a bottom-of-the-barrel comedy that'll probably leave even small children exhausted by its nonstop energy.
Produced by Judd Apatow, Bridesmaids follows Kristen Wiig's Annie as she attempts to fulfill her maid of honor duties for Maya Rudolph's Lillian - with her ongoing efforts complicated by both a mean-spirited rival (Rose Byrne's Helen) and her own crumbling personal life. There's little doubt that Bridesmaids gets off to a wonderfully promising start, as filmmaker Paul Feig, working from Wiig and Annie Mumolo's screenplay, does a superb job of establishing the friendship between Wiig and Rudolph's respective characters - with the actors' palpable chemistry together ensuring that their scenes possess an easy authenticity that proves impossible to resist. It is, as a result, initially easy to overlook the rough-cut feel that's been hardwired into the proceedings, with Feig's decision to blanket the thin narrative with overlong and downright needless interludes inevitably wreaking havoc on the movie's tenuous momentum and ultimately diminishing the impact of the undeniably stellar performances. The inclusion of an almost eye-rollingly melodramatic stretch within the film's midsection exacerbates the progressively uninvolving atmosphere, and one finally can't shake the feeling that Bridesmaids would've been far, far better off had it been trimmed down to a more manageable running time.
The Heat (August 10/13)
Paul Feig's follow-up to Bridesmaids, The Heat follows Sandra Bullock's straight-laced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn as she's forced to team up with a loose-cannon cop (Melissa McCarthy's Mullins) to solve a series of murders. There's little doubt that The Heat, for a little while, fares a whole lot better than Bridesmaids, as the movie, unlike that 2011 effort, does a much better job of integrating its improvisational elements into the (admittedly familiar) narrative - with the perfectly watchable atmosphere heightened by the palpable chemistry between the two central characters. (It's worth noting, too, that McCarthy, an actress whose presence generally works in very small doses only, never quite wears out her welcome.) Even in its early stages, however, The Heat suffers from a hit-and-miss feel that predictably wreaks havoc on its momentum - as Katie Dippold's screenplay has been packed with a number of sequences that are either overlong or flat-out needless. (There is, for example, a long sequence in a bar that just seems to go on forever.) It's not until the midway point that The Heat begins to seriously lose its grip on the viewer, with the progressively meandering atmosphere compounded by a plot that only grows more and more tedious as time progresses (ie the specifics of Ashburn and Mullin's case are so forgettable and hackneyed that one would be hard-pressed to recall their details mere moments after the credits have rolled). The degree to which the film subsequently peters out is nothing short of astonishing, and it certainly doesn't help that Feig places an increased emphasis on needless instances of melodrama as the story limps to its anticlimactic finale. It's ultimately clear that there's simply not enough plot to justify The Heat's absurdly overlong running time, with the relentless padding in the movie's second half emblematic of everything that's wrong with most contemporary comedies.
Spy (August 5/15)
Paul Feig's depressing run of hopelessly mediocre comedies continues with Spy, which follows clumsy CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) as she's sent into the field after a top agent (Jude Law's Bradley Fine) is killed on her watch. The degree to which Spy eventually fizzles out is certainly quite disappointing given the promising opening stretch, as writer/director Feig infuses the early part of the proceedings with a briskly-paced and action-packed sensibility that's heightened by the efforts of an unusually strong supporting case - with Jason Statham, cast as a brash and somewhat moronic secret agent, stealing each and every one of his scenes with an ease one might not have expected (ie he's actually funny here). At the other end of the spectrum is McCarthy, as the actress turns in a lazy performance that's remarkably, tediously similar to the many roles she's played in the past - which ensures that her one-dimensional character remains impossible to root for throughout. Feig's predictable penchant for allowing his actors to improvise ensures that most sequences, even those that start out well, wear out their welcome, and it goes without saying that the absurdly overlong running time ultimately exacerbates the film's various problems (ie the bloated atmosphere drains the third act of its excitement and suspense, without question). The end result is a typically erratic Feig production that could (and should) have been so much better, with the filmmaker's refusal to judiciously edit his movies growing more and more frustrating with each new endeavor.