Aniston finally hits an acting high in 'Wanderlust'
Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd in Universal Pictures' 'Wanderlust'
Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse
Published Friday, February 24, 2012 9:37AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:33AM EDT
Richard's Review: 4 stars
Wanderlust is something we haven't seen for a while -- a Jennifer Aniston movie that doesn't stink. In fact, it's really good. It has a great supporting cast, loads of laughs and a wild hallucination scene. The only thing that stinks in this flick is the hippie hygiene.
Aniston and Paul Rudd play George and Linda, a big-city couple forced to downsize when he loses his job and her documentary is rejected by HBO. Forced to sell their apartment and faced with the prospect of working with his idiot brother, the pair move into Elysium, a free love commune where "dreams are dispensed daily, just bring your own container," and adopt a hippie lifestyle.
This is the funniest movie to hit theatres since "Bridesmaids" last year.
Aniston reminds us of why she is such a big star in this movie. Rudd is also charming and does a mirror pep talk scene that is raunchy, funny and kind of surreal. Speaking of surreal, the hallucination sequence is trippy and hilarious. I've seen loads of drug scenes in movies but this one made me feel high with laughter.
Aside from the funny script, the reason why this movie works is that each of the supporting characters could have been the focus of the story and it still would have been a good film. There isn't a character here that feels extraneous. Justin Theroux as head hippie Seth has some of the movie's best lines and it's a treat to see Alan Alda on the big screen again.
I also loved the über hippie jokes. Where else would you find a placenta as soup stock joke?
Richard's Review: 1/2 star
"Good Deeds" will make you laugh, but you'll be laughing at it rather than with it as this movie plays out. It may also make you cry, but they will be tears of frustration at a story so predictable that it makes the "See Spot Run" books seem complex by comparison.
Director Tyler Perry is not doing audiences a good deed by releasing his latest film in general release.
In the opening minutes we are introduced to Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) and his perfect life. He has a hip apartment, a beautiful fiancée (Gabrielle Union) and is the CEO of a major software company. Trouble is he isn't sure if he is living his own life or the life he was raised to have. He's a child of privilege, unlike Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton), a single mom on the verge of eviction and possibly losing her little girl to Child Welfare Services. A chance meeting between the two -- she works as a night janitor at the company he runs -- leads him to slowly begin unbuttoning his buttoned-down life. It also leads this young woman to see her life in new terms, beyond living out of her car.
The script is filled with the kind of banal chatter people engage in every day. In fact, a drinking game could be built around the amount of times Wesley says, "Are you serious?"
What banal here is ridiculous. Check out this exchange: "How much is a gallon of milk?" asks Wesley. "I don't know...you're lactose intolerant." Don't expect Noel Coward from this mess.
The story claims to examine the gap between rich and poor, but it fails to make any social commentary worth noting. Instead, "Good Deeds" is a bland transformational fairy tale filled with clichés.
Phylicia Rashad is so cold in her role that when she cries in one scene I half expected crystals of ice to form on her cheeks.
Newton slides by on her looks. She's given nothing else to do except mouth poorly-written dialogue. Brother Wayne also has one of the most unintentionally funny breakdowns in the history of cinema.
Only Perry as Wesley escapes with his dignity somewhat intact. His banal dialogue is just as painful to endure, but his gentle giant approach is appealing. Less appealing, however, is his carefully manicured bear and Tom of Finland motorcycle outfit, but those are the least of this movie's problems.
Ultimately, "Good Deeds" is what I call a "Seatbelt Movie." This film so bad you'll need a seatbelt to keep you from walking out halfway through it.
"Act of Valor"
Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars
Any movie made with the cooperation of the US army and six real-life Navy SEALS is bound to have a certain moral slant to it. But "Act of Valor" completely throws nuance out the window in favour of good and evil stereotypes unseen since John Wayne waved the flag on the big screen.
Inspired by true events, the real life Navy SEALS of Bandito Platoon rescue a kidnapped CIA agent and uncover a terrorist plot to kill thousands of Americans in coordinated attacks.
The chasm between the good and bad guys is wide and deep, almost as gaping as the ideological stance of the main players. The heroes are good-looking warriors who hold "honour, justice, freedom and family" as sacred. One of the good characters, a kidnapped CIA agent, even appears to have stigmata at one point. The bad guys, on the other hand, are bug-eyed
This movie isn't subtle. It's an advertisement for the war on terror that could be mistaken for a 1940s vintage propaganda film, were it not for the colour film and inclusion of suicide bombers.
As propaganda films go, this is a pretty good one. It's clear the Navy SEALS didn't go to drama school. But aside from some stilted scenes of camaraderie and family life, they deliver where it counts on the battlefield. The action scenes work because of the ease of execution these men bring to the movie. These well-trained soldiers portray something that can't be taught in drama class -- the immediacy of battle. Those scenes crackle with excitement and tension and are worth the price admission.
The rest of the movie doesn't have the same excitement and is too heavy-handed -- these guys are so tough one actually survives a rocket blast to the chest. Even so, "Act of Valor" does have a visceral authenticity often missing from war films.