Tag Archives: Chris O’Donnell

A Little Help

18 Aug

Title: A Little Help
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Michael J. Weithorn
Writers: Michael J. Weithorn
Starring: 
Jenna Fischer, Chris O’Donnell, Rob Benedict, Arden Myrin, Daniel Yelsky
MPAA Rating: 
R, language, some sexual content and drug use
Runtime: 
105 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 
45%

 

I like Jenna Fischer a lot, I really do, and that’s the only reason why I like and will recommend A Little Help, because she really shines in this film. The thing is that, save from the performances, not much else in this film really works that well, so in the end it’s just a pretty decent flick even though it had a lead performance worthy of a pretty great one. And it’s really great to see Ms. Fischer tackle a role like the one she gets to play in this one, because most people know and love her from her role as Pam Beasley in TV’s The Office, but her film career has been marred with supporting roles in comedies like Blades of Glory (which was actually pretty good), The Brothers Solomon (which was horrible), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (which was quite good), last year’s very good dramedy A Solitary Man (which I gave an A- to) and this year’s Hall Pass (which I awarded middling C to), so yeah, even though she’s been in some good flicks, she never has gotten the chance to really stretch herself and show us what she can do. A Little Help provides her with that chance, and she really makes the most of it.

The woman Ms. Fischer plays is Laura, a character appealing because of how imperfect she is, because we can relate to her in great ways. And I like the Laura character because we don’t really get to see mothers like her in film nowadays, we usually get moms who are sort of heroic and just tremendously good, but yet here we have a woman who really isn’t loving life all that much and isn’t afraid of taking a beer to deal with it. Not taking a beer in the sense of being an alcoholic mother who’s a total mess and irresponsible like crazy, but taking a beer in the sense of getting buzzed enough to not mind as much about all of her things, but also buzzed enough so that when things go wrong they go worse then they probably should have. It’s this character and Ms. Fischer’s portrayal of her that make A Little Help as good as it ultimately is, because even though this isn’t the perfect image of motherhood we know and have grown up with in films and television, we can still immediately connect with Laura, because deep down we know we’ve all had days like the ones she seems to constantly have.

I guess that inherent likability was something I should have been fully expecting because I’m a huge The Office fan and I know how adorable Ms. Fischer is, but it was still awesome to see her bring those qualities to a new role. Because a lesser actress could have easily made Laura a character we don’t necessarily root for, but Ms. Fischer finds a way to make her incredibly real, and in doing so she wins our hearts because we realize that Laura isn’t a bad person at all, she’s just a woman who’s apparently being played a huge prank on by life. I mean, her sister seems to have life figured out, her mother has been criticizing her since she was a kid, her son lies a lot, and her husband cheats on her. So we feel for Laura, we feel for her because she doesn’t seem to have a moment to breathe, always having somebody on her case.

Michael J. Weithorn, a long-time TV writer/producer of shows like The King of Queens and Family Ties, makes his feature-length writing/directing debut with this film, and his script is pretty fun, and it’s a pretty nonstop series of things that start going wrong in one way or another. The funnest one of them all is the one that’s featured in the trailer, the fact that Laura’s son being the compulsive liar that he is tells the kids at his new school that his father was a fireman who died on 9/11 (the movie is set in 2002), and because of that gets the attention of a lot of kids. And Laura goes along with her kid’s lies. This is just one the many things that happen to Laura in this film, and even though the film ultimately felt a bit too manipulative for my liking (and that’s the biggest reason as to why I’m not grading it higher), I really did like it, I liked the supporting cast and I loved Ms. Fischer who makes Laura such a mess it’s hard not to fall for it and follow her through it all.

It’s all maybe a bit too understated, but it really works in the end, because Ms. Fischer is fantastic at playing a woman trying exceptionally hard to do the right thing during a time in which absolutely everything seems to be going the wrong way, and because we believe her as that is that A Little Help gets to succeed. Not to mention that her scenes with Rob Benedict, who plays Laura’s brother-in-law, one of the few people on her side, are seriously terrific to watch, and the chemistry between the two makes for some really touching moments that I loved every moment of. If you’re a fan of Jenna Fischer from her work in The Office I really advice you to give this film a watch, it’s what you need to realize just how great she is.

Grade: B

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Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

5 Aug

Title: Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Year: 2010
Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich, based on the characters by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Bette Midler, James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Nick Nolte, Joe Pantoliano, Chris O’Donnell, Jack McBrayer, Fred Armisen, Paul Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: PG, animal action and humor
Runtime: 82 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 2.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%

I’ll be quite brief about the nonsensical film that Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore was, because, really, it warrants not a lengthy explanation or analysis, this is a sequel from a mediocre-but-at-least-commercially-successful film from a decade ago, the difference is that back then animated talking animals were cute and fun, now they look completely moronic and unnecessary, and this sequel really is unnecessary, and I cannot fathom why studio executives would force this upon us. The good news though, is that, if you’re going to watch it, it’s less than an hour and a half long, so you don’t have to suffer through it for a long time.

This one tries to be fun, tries to be funny, but it’s just boring and seriously unfunny, I mean seriously, this may have been fun ten years ago, and even then I didn’t love the original film, but now the notion that our pets actually lead double lives has been spent entirely, and the spy-themed kid movies are usually complete rubbish, so this one really had no shot at being good in the first place. The premise that first film introduced was the one that cats and dogs, infamous so-called enemies among pets, were in a huge battle, unbeknownst to humans, to achieve total pet domination of the world, this one continues that notion but focussing more on the animals and less on the humans.

I guess the only thing commendable about Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is that it manages to employ every single cliché it possibly could have, and it sucks while doing so, big-time. There are countless references to spy films other than the obvious James Bond namecheck from the title, and they are all completely dumb, because this is seriously a dumb film, and I won’t fail it as badly as I probably should because I imagine some kids will like it, I can’t fathom why, but I guess some will, even though, it must be said, kids are getting smarter with their movie choices nowadays, especially when you consider recent offerings like the amazing Despicable Me.

I won’t even go through the trouble of explaining the plot, it’s far worse than the plot for the first one was, and it’s only there to enable a series of jokes and gags about pets that we’ve heard way too many times by now, add that to the fact that… actually, you know what, I won’t continue, it’s not worth it, you know what this movie will be like before you go see it, I shouldn’t tell you not to, it’s your choice, I just hope you’re smart, and by smart I mean I hope you avoid this at all costs. And the reason why I’m giving this a ‘high’ failing grade is because it was so short, it really was painless, and because, as I said, maybe some kids will like it, and this film was obviously only made for them.

Grade: D+