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Non-Review Review: The Night Before

The Night Before does not always work well, but it works hard.

The tale of three unlikely best friends embarking on one final Christmas bender runs through the checklist of the modern “overgrown manchild” comedy genre elements. There is arrested development. There is adulthood beaconing. There is responsibility to be claimed. There is friendship to be fractured and ultimately strengthened. There is a great supporting cast and a number of very effectively employed cameos. All The Night Before does is to apply a layer of festive frosting atop a familiar recipe.

A star performance...?

A star performance…?

The formula has been dulled somewhat by the frequency with which it has been deployed. A lot of The Night Before feels familiar and even rote. However, there are moments of absurd clarity. The Night Before puts a surprising amount of effort into some of its more effective gags, painstakingly setting up the pins so that they might be knocked down at a later date. In particular, one of the climactic gags is the result of a great deal of careful alignment over the preceding nineties minutes, a laugh that looks cheap but is as intricately crafted as a fancy tree ornament.

The Night Before is not the most hilarious or memorable or definitive of these sorts of Apatow-esque comedies, but there is an endearing effort to it all. There is never a sense of coasting, even at points where the film leans towards the nostalgia and arrested development that it spends so much effort trying to escape.

You take my elf...  You take my elf-control.

You take my elf…
You take my elf-control.

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Non-Review Review: This is the End

There’s a moment about half-way through This is the End when our bunch of celebrities are starting go stir-crazy, as they brave the apocalypse inside James Franco’s surprisingly fortified house. In the strange combination of idle boredom and growing madness, the group decide to improvise a trailer for the non-existent sequel to Pineapple Express. It is complete nonsense, but there’s a strange energy and a warm sense of humour to their “sweded” version of a Hollywood comedy, complete with remote-control car chases and homemade props.

It feels like something that only these actors would get – it’s just a bunch of people hanging out, fooling around, making the most of the materials available to them do something which feels incredibly niche. It’s a weird balance of something so experimental and so niche that it’s almost definitely a piece of post-modern art. (The movie even features an early scene of pretentious James Franco gleefully arguing that everything is art – even Jay Baruchel.) On the other hand, it’s accessible and fun, managing to seem – simultaneously – like an incredibly niche and charmingly broad piece of film.

It’s also pretty damn funny.

... and I feel fine...

… and I feel fine…

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Non-Review Review: Paul

Paul is a charming little film. It’s not the most consistently hilarious comedy of the year, and it occasionally gets a little bit too hung up on a particular joke, but it does have a few chuckles and an affable quality that allows it go down easy. There’s a genuine sense of affection in the film, following two British nerds and the eponymous alien escapee on a road trip across America, but there’s also enough of a bite the film never wallows too much in sentimentality. It’s hard to find a single quality that Paul excels in, but it has a broad enough mesh of qualities that it makes for a pleasant enough viewing experience.

Ap-paul-ling behaviour...

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Non-Review Review: Green Hornet

Green Hornet is an interesting film, if only because it’s hard to figure out the potential audience. It adopts a brutally cynical approach to the types of superhero films that have been released over the past few years, while remaining steeped in their trappings. It’s a comedy, but it doesn’t venture too far into slapstick or laugh-out-loud moments (though there are more than a couple). Instead, it seems to smirk its way through the movie, deconstructing the sort of plots, characters and dialogue that superhero films give us, but never completely tilting its hand. It’s hard to tell if this is a parody of a standard superhero film, or a straight-forward example of one – the movie fluctuates between the two extremes, but never really picks one and engages full throttle.

A bomb...

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Non-Review Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

I do quite like Monsters vs. Aliens, even if it feels like it’s trying to do too many vastly different things are once. It’s too goofy and silly to be a genuinely emotional morality tale about appreciating those different than us, while also being too sentimental to work as a sort of a goofy hokey monster mash nostalgia trip. One gets the sense that it could have been a much better film had it opted for one approach rather than the other, instead of trying to straddle the middle ground between them. It’s a shame, because it has some genuinely impressive sequences and warm sense of respect and good humour for all those classic creature features, but it just ends up feeling too much like a standard cookie-cutter modern animated film.

It's a Monster Mash!

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