Two Comedies from Warner Bros.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (January 2/12)
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love. follows likeable schlub Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) as he sinks into an alcohol-fueled depression after his wife (Julianne Moore's Emily) spontaneously leaves him one day - with the movie subsequently detailing Cal's friendship with a slick player (Ryan Gosling's Jacob) and his inevitable transformation into a ladies man. It's an admittedly familiar premise that's employed to consistently above average effect by Ficarra and Requa, as the filmmakers, working from Dan Fogelman's script, have infused the proceedings with a fresh and consistently engrossing feel that's heightened by the uniformly charismatic performances. And as strong as Carell and Moore are here, there's little doubt that Gosling ultimately walks away with the title of MVP - as the actor delivers an almost unreasonably charismatic performance that is, without question, utterly hypnotic from start to finish. The affable atmosphere is perpetuated by the consistently engaging nature of Fogelman's screenplay, with the inclusion of unexpectedly sharp asides and genuinely hilarious chunks of dialogue elevating the film above its romcom brethren on an impressively frequent basis. At a running time of almost two hours, however, Crazy, Stupid, Love. unfortunately does overstay its welcome to a fairly demonstrable degree - with the film's final twenty minutes especially problematic and ensuring that the whole thing doesn't quite end as strongly as one might've hoped. Still, this is a minor complaint for what is otherwise a compelling piece of work and it's certainly clear that Ficarra and Requa, between this and I Love You Philip Morris, have carved out a niche for themselves as purveyors of first-class comedic fare.
A silly, forgettable comedy, Space Jam follows the Looney Tunes gang as they're forced to compete against beefed-up aliens in a high-stakes game of basketball - with the toons' efforts at defeating their skilled opponents eventually assisted by no less than Michael Jordan. The film, directed by Joe Pytka, boasts a relentlessly over-the-top feel that's presumably meant to echo the Merrie Melodies shorts of yore, yet, as is clear almost immediately, Space Jam simply doesn't possess any of the charm or entertainment value of its antecedental cartoons - which is especially disappointing given the presence of so many familiar faces within the movie's animated supporting cast. Jordan's less-than-competent performance isn't quite as problematic as Pytka's relentlessly slick visual sensibility, as the majority of the movie plays like a music video or a shoe commercial - with Bill Murray's lamentably small role as himself unquestionably standing as one of the film's few positive attributes. By the time the tedious, basketball-oriented third act rolls around, Space Jam has clearly established itself as a missed opportunity of distressingly epic proportions and it is, as a result, virtually impossible to envision even casual fans of the Looney Tunes characters finding much to embrace here.