Two Comedies from TVA
French Immersion (February 28/12)
French Immersion follows four English-speaking Canadians (Fred Ewanuik's Colin, Olunike Adeliyi's Aretha, Gavin Crawford's Bobby, and Martha Burns' Cathy) and one New Yorker (Jacob Tierney's Jonathan) as they arrive in Northern Quebec for a two-week total immersion French program, with the movie subsequently detailing the five characters' fish-out-of-water exploits as they inevitably begin to mingle with the locals. There's little doubt that French Immersion gets off to a decidedly disastrous start, as director Kevin Tierney, working from a script cowritten with Jefferson Lewis, places an ongoing emphasis on jokes and gags of an uncomfortably broad nature - with the sitcom-like vibe perpetuated by the inclusion of hopelessly over-the-top bits of comedy (eg after learning that Jonathan is a Jew, an elderly woman immediately imagines him in full Rabbi regalia while stereotypical Jewish music plays on the soundtrack.) Once the viewer makes it past the nigh unwatchable opening half hour, however, French Immersion slowly-but-surely starts to adopt an affable feel that paves the way for a midsection that is, at the very least, tolerable. (It doesn't hurt, either, that Tierney offers up a genuinely compelling romance in the form of Colin's flirtation with a local teacher, Karine Vanasse's Julie.) The passable atmosphere persists right up until a dull street-hockey game at the movie's one-hour mark, after which point the whole thing begins to demonstrably fizzle out in the buildup to its anticlimactic conclusion - with the increased emphasis on crowd-pleasing elements (eg the Bollywood-inspired finish) lending the film a pandering feel that proves unfortunate (to say the least). The end result is a movie that often comes off as a pilot episode for a new CBC sitcom, which is a shame, really, given the impressive cast that Tierney has managed to assemble.
Though Adam Sandler has cranked out his share of clunkers over the years (eg Just Go With It), Going Overboard remains the absolute and undeniable nadir of the actor's cluttered filmography - as the film, produced prior to Sandler's star-making stint on Saturday Night Live, primarily comes off as a slapdash and thoroughly amateurish piece of work that suffers from a total dearth of positive attributes. The movie casts Sandler as Schecky Moskowitz, a cruise-ship waiter whose ongoing efforts at making a name for himself as a comic are consistently thwarted by the ship's egomaniacal standup comedian (Scott LaRose's Dickie Diamond). After Dickie is feared dead in an accident (but is actually just locked in a bathroom), Schecky makes a grab for the spotlight and quickly wins over his audience - although it's not long before Schecky and the rest of the passengers find themselves under attack from General Noriega's (Burt Young) soldiers. It's immediately clear that filmmaker Valerie Breiman, who would go on to direct 1993's Bikini Squad, is going for an irreverent, off-the-wall sort of vibe, as the writer/director has suffused the proceedings with a number of palpably oddball elements - including an animated interlude, dream sequences, and a central character with a penchant for speaking directly into the camera. But, as becomes painfully clear almost instantly, there's simply nothing here to capture and sustain the viewer's interest, with Breiman's relentlessly incompetent directorial choices exacerbated by Sandler's charmless performance and an overall atmosphere of pointlessness.