Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rapid Reviews: The Wedding Ringer & Still Alice

When it comes to movie theater selections after the turn of the new year, January is known for pitting the major Oscar contenders against fluff-films that come and go without much notice. Yet, most people are completely aware of the newest Kevin Hart comedy, The Wedding Ringer. Since Hart, a piece of contemporary comedy gold, usually doesn't fly under the radar very well, let me be the one to temper expectations for his latest go-around with debut director, Jeremy Garelick.

When chubby loner Doug Harris (Josh Gad) lands a fiance way out of his league, a series of little white lies put him in desperate need of a best man and 7 groomsmen. Luckily for Doug, Jimmy (Kevin Hart) provides exactly the type of service he requires and is willing to be the first to successfully pull off what his industry calls, "The Golden Tux" (a pseudo wedding party of this size). Now, if only Doug, Jimmy and 7 other strangers can buckle down and get their cover stories straight, this crazy bunch of misfits will actually have a shot at pulling off a historic wedding day mirage.

The Wedding Ringer helplessly falls into the "easy to get to get through, but nothing special" catalog. Its humor is consistent throughout, albeit far too over-the-top at times, and the acting is decent enough for a film of this scope. I've been a longtime fan of Josh Gad as he continues to deliver endearing characters with such jocular precision. However, a forced finale that's clearly hinted at, but lacking in proper writing and execution, ultimately reduces this absurdly-premised comedy to a mediocre result.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Completely shifting gears from a mindless comedy to a sentimental Oscar-bait drama, Julianne stars in Still Alice. Released in a limited fashion prior to the new year, in order to qualify for the awards season, Moore has already been handed an Academy Award Nomination for her work in the film. And if everything unravels as many prognosticators are predicting (including myself), on February 22nd she'll be accepting her first Oscar statue and delivering a speech for the whole world to witness.

Still Alice follows a renowned linguistics professor from Columbia University (Julianne Moore) who discovers tiny lapses in her memory around her 50th birthday. When these fearful instances start to increase in frequency, Alice visits a physician and discovers that she's suffering from a genetic form of early onset Alzheimer's disease. As the illness begins to deteriorate her mental capacity, Alice and her loved ones are all forced to live with these heart-breaking consequences.

I've always enjoyed Julianne Moore's long list of accomplished work. But after sitting through Still Alice's relentless and painful melodrama for 100 minutes, I came to the realization that her presumed Oscar win would be more of a "lifetime achievement" recognition than the repercussions of this specific role. 2014 boasted a fine collection of exceptional lead performances from women, some of which were far superior to Moore's work here. And although she clearly does the most she can with a feeble screenplay and a lackluster story, there are plenty of reasons to avoid this over-bearing drama.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4.

Grade: C

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