Friday, September 04, 2009

Slow Development - Extract & Youth In Revolt - Movie Reviews

Extract = B
Written and Directed by Mike Judge
Opens Today (Sep. 4th 2009)

Youth In Revolt = C-
Written by Gustin Nash based on the novel by C.D. Payne, Directed by Miguel Arteta
Opens Oct. 30th 2009 (Review based on an early screening)

I still have friends that have only recently discovered and/or started watching Arrested Development. 8v|


One even asked if new ones were being made? And when I told him it was cancelled, he asked why? "It's so good". Seriously, I've just about had it... (maybe if people actually watch the shows when they actually air? The networks get the numbers they want and won't cancel it. Sheesh).

Anyways, since Arrested Development has ended, the brilliant Jessica Walter moved to 90210 where they didn't know what to do with her (or anybody for that matter, more on that later), Portia de Rossi moved to the brilliant but underwatched (ahem, that means WATCH. It's FUNNY AND CLEVER. Maybe it might actually last 2 seasons even if you do!) Better Off Ted which is basically Arrested Development in the office. Meanwhile, George Michael Bluth himself Michael Cera has become a bonafide box office star (thanks to Juno and Superbad), while "dad" Jason Bateman continues to prove his comic prowess on the big screen (also in June) while throwing in some dramatic flair (The Kingdom, State of Play). Who knew Jason Bateman had that much talent back in the Hogan Family days?

Now Jason Bateman stars in the new Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) working comedy Extract opening this Labour Day weekend, while Michael Cera's next venture, Youth In Revolt opens later this fall (or is supposed to at least).

Extract writer and director Mike Judge has perfected his niche of working class satirical comedies aimed at the middle-class guys who think they are smarter than the average Joe and enjoys looking down and laughing at the others as they sit in their cubicles waiting for the BBQ-beer drinking weekend to begin. And now that the folks at Office Space (which I did like a lot) have gotten older, a little fatter, added a few more wrinkles, and gotten a few promotions to keep them from quitting, is now aiming a new movie at the the trials and tribulations of the employers that used to deal with the heroes of Office Space.

Jason Bateman is the self-made owner of his Vanilla Extract factory, with JK Simmons (Law & Order and every movie out there including Juno, is there anybody who wasn't in that movie?) as his trusty management, Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote) is a trusty worker, Beth Grant (All About Steve) is a chatty worker uh huh!, Mila Kunis (That 70's Show) is the newest temp, Kristen Wiig (SNL, Adventureland) is his sex-depriving wife, Ben Affleck is his chill best friend, and so on and so on. His life isn't exactly bad, but it isn't exactly great either, but things get set in motion to make it worse and worse.

But if Office Space was to rally around us poor plebes out there, here's a story to empathize with the boss, as Bateman's Joel attempts to juggle the numerous characters he calls employees while dealing with his sad upper-middle class suburban life. Oh the pain of a huge mansion. Poor baby. If you're looking for Office Space hilarity, this will be a huge disappointment, much like life has been for Joel, but Judge constructs a film that slowly builds and builds, that while it never really reaches a high as it could/should go, the movie settles for a happy medium that sort of reinforces the message within the movie itself.

At least the cast is game to make it all entertaining, with Bateman playing Bateman playing a more morose version of Bluth. Ben Affleck seems to have a ball in a movie not resting on his loosened shoulders. Kristen Wiig turns what could have been a harpy wife character into a fully dimensional likable person. In fact, there's quite a nice indie small-town drama in this until Judge throws in a plot-turning device in Mila Kunis (below with Collins Jr.) who is a grifter on the hunt for the next con, enlisting the help of nice but naive Clifton Collins Jr. (who turns yet another lovely performance of a simple dim-witted character), probably the most mainstream plot driven device in the movie.

An accident, a seedy lawyer (Gene Simmons in a perfect cameo), a bong, a punch and a gigolo later, the movie attempts to throw in wacky bits in between the drama, but it's the underlying heart that holds the movie together (if not disappointingly unravels it at the same time, removing it from an even darker more twisted place it could have gone to).

Speaking of gigolo, Dustin Millegan (above with Wiig) practically steals the movie (with a cast that includes Wiig, Simmons and Bateman, is saying a LOT) as Brad, a himbo that Joel hires in a madcap scheme. Millegan's performance is both sweet and hilarious in the levels of stupidity and earnestness he combines into the one character, and shows how ill-used he was on 90210 where he was recently written off the show (who along with Walter, are no longer really with the series, and shows just how little the writers and producers on that show know what to do with their talented actors. Maybe Shenae CAN actually act? She did show promise on Degrassi. Too bad she won't get a chance on 90210. Oh well. This movie does prove that being dropped from the show was the best thing to happen to Millegan)

Youth In Revolt, based on the graphic novel by C.D. Payne, puts dear Michael Cera as Nick Twist, the youth in question. Now, Cera revolt you say? How atypical!

Cera plays Cera here, at first, but Cera also gets to play the anti-Cera (FINALLY) which is quite fun to watch. Does it work? Not totally convincingly but at least it's a nice turn around. Unfortunately, the film surrounding him doesn't quite work out to his benefit and Cera's Twist is just as lost in the movie as he is as his character.

Despite an amazing supporting cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Justin Long (I'm Just Not That Into You, The Mac commercials, Ed) , Jean Smart (Samantha Who?, 24, Designing Women), Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, Adhir Kalyan (the brilliant Aliens in America, Nip/Tuck), Ari Graynor (Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, Fringe) and Zach Galifianakis (Hangover), the movie completely wastes their talents away in a frenetic movie that attempts to show the progression on Nick's revolt on his blue-collared life in a series of "crazy" events. But a series of "crazy" events does not a movie make, and the film feels disjointed and we never end up caring for any of the characters, least of all, the lead Nick Twist, who already had the bonus of Cera filling the shoes giving Twist an automatic likability.

Alas, Youth In Revolt tries too hard to be cool, hip and different, that in the process, becomes predictable and cloying as the next counter-culture movement. Seeing Cera play the anti-Cera is amusing for a few moments, but the whole idea runs out of steam, and the thrown in wacky side characters (Think. Buscemi, Smart, Willard and Liotta are the adults in the movie. It's like they were begging for over-the-top acting. Galifianakis by contrast gives a subdued performance) aren't enough to fill the movie, and instead, are mere distractions to an unfocused movie about an unfocused teenager. Or was that the point?

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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