Three Comedies from Warner Bros.
Lottery Ticket (November 28/10)
Lottery Ticket casts Bow Wow as Kevin Carson, an well-meaning young man who wins an enormous lottery jackpot and subsequently finds himself targeted by forces good and bad within his lower class neighborhood. Director Erik White has infused the first half of Lottery Ticket with a briskly paced and thoroughly affable sensibility that compensates for the less-than-hilarious nature of Abdul Williams' screenplay, and there's little doubt that its the reasonably authentic portrayal of Kevin's community that initially cements the film's mild success. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that the movie's supporting roles have been filled by charismatic folks like Ice Cube, Terry Crews, and Keith David.) It's subsequently easy enough to overlook the movie's few missteps in its early stages - ie Mike Epps' eye-rollingly broad turn as an over-the-top reverend - yet White's reliance on characters and plot developments of a decidedly needless nature ensure that Lottery Ticket peters out long before it reaches its expectedly upbeat finale. Specifically, Kevin's ongoing encounters with a local bully (Gbenga Akinnagbe's Lorenzo) wear out their welcome almost immediately and effectively exacerbate the various other questionable elements within the narrative (ie Kevin's fake break-up with his best friend, played by Brandon T. Jackson). The end result is a sporadically entertaining yet hopelessly uneven comedy that just doesn't work, which is a shame, certainly, given the strength of both the premise and of Bow Wow's charismatic performance.
No Time for Sergeants (November 30/10)
Anchored by Andy Griffith's ridiculously charming performance, No Time for Sergeants comes off as an agreeable comedy that ultimately succumbs to an overlong running time and aggressively deliberate pace. The storyline follows dim-witted farmer Will Stockdale (Griffith) as he's drafted into the Air Force, with the film subsequently detailing the character's episodic exploits during basic training and his ongoing encounters with fellow soldiers and commanding officers. Director Mervyn LeRoy, working from a script by John Lee Mahin, has infused No Time for Sergeants with a slow-moving sensibility that is, at the outset, not as problematic as one might've assumed, with Griffith's striking and consistently compelling turn as the likeable protagonist initially compensating for the almost egregiously relaxed atmosphere. And although the movie does boast a few genuinely funny encounters and situations in its early stages, there inevitably reaches a point at which the repetitiveness of the premise becomes increasingly tough to take (ie the majority of the film seems to consist of sequences in which Stockdale's idiocy exasperates one character after another). By the time the tedious final third rolls around, No Time for Sergeants has undoubtedly established itself as a lamentably uneven piece of work that's rarely as compelling as its star's magnetic performance.
Steelyard Blues (December 1/10)
An absolutely worthless, interminable piece of work, Steelyard Blues follows Donald Sutherland's Jesse Veldini as he and a group of misfits attempt to restore an old plane and fly it to freedom - with their ongoing efforts hindered by various law-abiding types (including Jesse's own brother, Howard Hesseman's Frank Veldini). There's little doubt that Steelyard Blues has been designed to come off as an anti-establishment comedy along the lines of Robert Altman's MASH, as filmmaker Alan Myerson, working from David S. Ward's screenplay, has infused the proceedings with a freewheeling sensibility that is, right from the outset, nothing short of infuriating. The movie's subsequent emphasis on aggressive (and excessive) smugness is compounded by a uniformly irritating assortment of characters, with Sutherland and his talented costars forced into the shoes of figures that are almost unreasonably sarcastic and sardonic (ie they're all just so obnoxious) - which ensures that the viewer is forced to root for the cops rather than the so-called heroes. It's worth noting that Steelyard Blues doesn't even pass muster as a mildly watchable comedy, as Myerson places an ongoing emphasis on bits and asides of a hopelessly, eye-rollingly desperate nature (ie Peter Boyle's dim-witted character pretends to be a police dog). The end result is a wholly irrelevant and thoroughly monotonous exercise in pointlessness, and it's ultimately difficult to envision the movie playing well even among the counterculture crowds of the 1970s.
no stars out of