Tag: Rashida Jones

The Grinch

grinchIn a cinematic version of hanging your Christmas decorations out too early, The Grinch begs the question of why we need a Christmas story in November, let alone one from the well rinsed Dr. Seuss pantheon. But here we have it.

Directors Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Eddie’s Life Coach) have pieced together a feel-good film that puts a spotlight on Christmas cheer. Residents of the snowy town of Whoville have decided to turn up their Christmas festivities to eleven.  Enter that ol’ killjoy, the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), to cast the shadow of his lowing brow upon the town’s unbridled optimism. We all know the Grinch’s drill; loner, outcast, grumpy, and Whoville’s seasonal exuberance proves to be one curly ribbon too many. He is, however, not quite the curmudgeon we’ve become accustomed to in previous films.  In fact, when he  complained of rampant consumerism I began to be sympathetic to his plight. His mission to steal the town’s joy (ie. their Christmas presents) sees him, along with his trusty dog Max, embarking on an evening of “righteous” thievery that has far-reaching consequences.

On the surface, the film offers plenty of plucky family entertainment. It has a noble message, and even takes the time to paint the Grinch’s backstory. Visually it’s full of lively action, the animation is snappy and the pallet is bright and attractive. However, Michael LeSieur’s (You Me and Dupree) pallid writing hasn’t done this film any favours. More should’ve been made of the talent on offer and despite Cumberbatch squeezing what he can from the bland screenplay, it remains a story that that lacks depth and wit.  

That said, there are a couple of highlights worth noting; Mr. Bricklebaum’s (Kenan Thompson) infectious enthusiasm delivers a few chuckles and the film’s vibrant visuals will no doubt delight the young’uns. But ultimately The Grinch feels like you’ve received one of those practical Christmas presents destined for the sock drawer; soft, dull and lacking in imaginative spark.  Bah humbug. 

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.


tagIt’s hard to believe that among the homes and workplaces of ten “ordinary” men, there is a very serious and highly spirited game of tag happening. Director Jeff Tomsic has teamed up with screenwriter Mark Steilen to tell their story. 

Better known for their TV comedies, the duo have adapted for film an article written by Russell Adams in The Wall Street Journal that outlined the aforementioned group of grown men who every February enter into a month-long season of tag. The only taboo? You can’t tag the tagger—other than that, hunting season is open right across the country. 

Wary of overcooking his cast Tomsic has wisely narrowed the film’s focus to five friends; Hoagie (Ed Helms) who is the spiritual hub to the group, Randy (Jake Johnson) the drug-addled goof, Callahan (Jon Hamm) the successful businessman, and Sable (Hannibal Buress) the fragile and intellectually curious one. 

And then there’s Jerry (Jeremy Renner). He has never been tagged, much to the umbrage of the other four.  His “untouchable” status is a comical MacGuffin that provides the film with its narrative direction. However, at its heart Tag is just as concerned with exploring the bonds of their friendship. Any comedy worth its salt does more than just make you laugh and Tag does a wonderful job of hilariously endearing you to their relationships. Not just with each other, but also with Hoagie’s ultra-competitive wife (Isla Fisher) who acts as his support crew and tipping him off against an impending tag.

But the film’s real strength lies in its physical comedy and lets the reigns loose on some downright hilarious hijinks and clever slapstick moments. Yes, it’s very commercial and incredibly silly; but it’s also fun, irreverent, sometimes awkward and often cringe-worthy—the kind that’ll have you watching between your fingers. It’s normally everything I shy away from but here they’ve got the balance bang on … and right now there are not many comedies that can touch it.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.