The first thing you need to know about me before reading this review is I hate cheap potty humor. The minute someone is projectile pooping or vomiting, I’m out. I hated American Pie and it’s subsequent sequels, the only good thing to ever come of those films was the Wallflowers version of “Into The Mystic”. My top comedies are Wayne’s World, A Fish Called Wanda, and Young Frankenstein. Maybe that tells you enough about my cinematic comedy sensibilities.
This summer two familiar names return to theaters after a long absence; the Griswold family and Adam Sandler (not in the same film, mind you). One of these two features is being billed as “the worst movie of the year”, and the other is being shrugged off as a “good modern cousin” to the original. THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG.
I’ll start with Pixels since everyone is ripping it apart. IT ISN’T HORRIBLE. No, really, get this through your thick skulls guys. If you read this review by Variety, and watch this one by MovieBob (which is highly entertaining and I love his review style a lot), you’d think Pixels is literally raping classic video game characters. And while yes, it does borrow HEAVILY from an episode of Futurama, it was actually enjoyable.
I was totally ready to hate this movie for my own personal reasons. Mostly because I am a HUGE fan of Ernie Cline and his books Ready Player One and Armada. Both have been optioned for movies (RP1 is getting made with Steven Spielberg as it’s director), and both deal with many classic properties and scenarios that are touched on in Pixels. The film honestly feels like it’s coming from a place of love; that the writers actually played the games used, and still to this day hold warm feelings for Joust, Galaga, and Frogger.
I’ve also never been a huge Adam Sandler fan, I’ve laughed at his early SNL roots and still like Happy Gilmore, but he hasn’t done anything interesting since The Wedding Singer….until Pixels. Don’t let these other reviewers fool you, Sandler’s character Brenner is completely believable. He doesn’t make ANY of the expected “Sandler Sounds”, sorry MovieBob, maybe we saw different versions of the film. The script also, isn’t the heap of garbage it’s being made out to be. The dialog isn’t cringeworthy, the characters and their themes (albeit the stereotypical ‘nerds’) don’t take it to the insulting level of something like The Big Bang Theory (which I hate). I actually laughed, unprompted, by several scenes in the film. Peter Dinklage’s character was probably the only thing I didn’t care for, and that was mainly because of his voice. I’ll just go watch Knights of Badassdom again.
I’m also going to quote someone I follow on twitter:
If your commercial entices kids with images of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, your movie probably shouldn't be so fucking crass and vulgar.
— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) July 26, 2015
I’ve got news for you Scott. There is nothing vulgar nor crass about Pixels. The majority of the showing I was at were families. My impression of this demographic being the fathers and mothers knew these games and wanted to share them with their kids. It’s actually a good movie for kids, surprisingly. You could argue that the threesome joke (which is never fully said, btw) of Dinklage’s character wanting a ‘private meeting’ in the Lincoln bedroom with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart is in poor taste, but it wasn’t presented as such. Seriously, the one thing that doesn’t make any goddamn sense in the entire movie is Kevin James being elected as President. That should tell you pretty much all you need to know. I’d see it again. Now onto the other film….
I was invited to see a week early screening of Vacation in San Francisco with a pretty well mixed demographic of an audience, but with a skewed age bracket of mid 20’s-30’s viewers (of which I am one). For many, the Christmas season isn’t complete without a family viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Following the Griswold family through the ups and downs of visiting relatives, dealing with life and death, hilarious. One of the best things about the series of original Vacation films is the assumption the audience gets the gags because we’ve lived it. Everyone has an older relative who isn’t all there, everyone knows a cousin who may not be the type you’d take to fancy dinner. Someone thought it would be a good idea to revisit the franchise, and the resulting movie was disgusting.
Yes, disgusting. In a way, I blame Van Wilder, the horrible 90’s ripoff of everything that made Animal House great. They took the classic setup, in this case, a man who wants to take his family on a cross country roadtrip to get closer to them. The resulting trip is of course an unmitigated disaster as we’ve all come to expect from a “Vacation” film, but without an ounce of intelligence.
I have the utmost respect for Christina Applegate, but Debbie Griswold (wife of grown up Rusty Griswold) is probably her worst role to date. Her private moments with Ed Helms (Rusty) are well played, you can see a hint of chemistry and their many years of sitcom chops showing. But then the Chug Run happens, and any patience I harbored for the film went the way of the pitcher of beer. I cannot stand movies that rely on poop and vomit gags to sell laughs, it usually means the writers think their audience as a whole is stupid. Which, as the movie progresses, is made abundantly clear.
By now, I have to assume you’ve seen the trailers which show such dubious moments as the new Griswolds swimming in raw sewage, believing it to be a ‘hot springs’. And the brief but horribly memorable moments of Chris “Thor” Hemsworth and his giant hammer. Sure, we get it, dude has a big penis and is stupid. He uses the word “faucet” in almost every sentience. Why is this funny? I mean they made the same damn jokes when Hemsworth was the host on SNL, IN ALMOST EVERY SKIT, AND IT WASN’T FUNNY THEN EITHER. The only good part of the entire film was Norman Reedus’s cameo, and he has almost no dialog which elicited the only laugh I gave the movie.
Maybe I expect too much from Hollywood comedies; well crafted script, no projectile body fluids, and actual funny jokes. Who knows, maybe Vacation will be loved and treasured forever, placed higher on the chart than it’s Lampoon predecessors….oh who am I kidding, I couldn’t even finish that statement without uttering curse words at myself. Pixels wins this battle of the July comedies for me, Vacation needs to sign up for summer school.