This is a moderately entertaining screwball comedy that isn’t as funny as it could have been. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose only previous major outing was directing the disappointing comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), a key to the problem with the film is indicated when one is aware that four screenwriters get credit and who knows how many others participated. That’s a big clue to problems in production.
At the end of the film are outtakes from scenes that didn’t make the cut. They show the actors trying out different lines from a few of the scenes. While, as is typical with outtakes, the actors thought they were funny, none of them actually were, which is probably why they didn’t make the final cut.
Jason Sudeikis is a minor drug dealer who owes a lot of money to Ed Helms who plays a major crime kingpin who is more standup comic than vicious criminal. Helms offers to spare Jason’s life if he’ll go to Mexico and pick up a load of marijuana, to which Jason reluctantly agrees. In order to get in and out of Mexico surreptitiously Jason recruits a “family” consisting of stripper Jennifer Aniston to be his wife, homeless street person Emma Roberts to be his daughter, and naïve next door neighbor Will Poulter to be his son.
It’s not that their escapades are not humorous that makes this film fall short. Nor is it bad acting. It’s just that what happens, while humorous, is not laugh out loud funny.
This is a film that causes chuckles but no big laughs. One reason is that some of the sexual jokes are so graphic they tend to make one uncomfortable rather than inducing laughter. Another thing that bothered me was seeing Aniston degrade herself acting as a stripper. It was too out of character for her and she did not do a good job of selling it. Sudeikis, Roberts, and Poulter, on the other hand are perfectly believable in their roles. Apart from being a stripper, however, Aniston does give an acceptable comedic performance.
There were some pretty good supporting performances. Matthew Willig stands out as a brutal bad guy and Luis Guzmán is appealing as a corruptible Mexican cop. Helms is acceptably over-the-top as a goofy crime boss. Finally, Mark L. Young makes a memorable appearance as a strange-talking guy to whom Roberts takes a shine near the end of the movie, clearly the best performance in the movie.
Give someone like Alan Dwan, who directed the classic screwball comedies Up in Mabel’s Room (1944) and Getting Gertie’s Garter (1945), this script and these situations and the audience would have been rolling over themselves in the aisles laughing. One scene in particular had tremendous promise. Aniston and Roberts try to teach Poulter how to kiss. As it plodded along, I kept wishing that Dwan had had a shot at directing it. In Thurber’s hands, however, it is only mildly amusing. And that sums up the entire film.
Joseph Finder is one of the best writers of thrillers extant. This film is based on one of his books. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it must make more sense than this movie, directed by Robert Luketic from a script by two guys apparently working separately, Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy. They really needed someone to brush up their verisimilitude because this thing makes little or no sense.
Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford are dueling captains of industry. Oldman hires Liam Hemsworth to spy on Harrison. In so doing he gets romantically involved with Amber Heard, Ford’s assistant, a romance with about as much chemistry as one will find between two avocado trees.
Luketic directed two movies I liked a lot, Legally Blonde (2001) and The Ugly Truth (2009). But those were both comedies which almost by definition don’t have to make much sense. In this one, I was mystified by the denouement, which has no relationship with reality. What has gone before doesn’t establish any basis for how this ends. It’s OK as it moves along, although it really does stretch one’s credulity. But when it comes to the climax, it completely falls apart.
The best thing about this film is the music (Junkie XL), that builds tension and, believe me, this movie needs it because the story is so weak.