Tag Archives: Kristen Wiig

Review: Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening Make “Girl Most Likely” Watchable – Barely

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When I first saw “Girl Most Likely” at TIFF 2012 and reviewed it for The Playlist, it was called “Imogene.” I found it a sitcom-y but likable affair. I reviewed it again recently for the Buffalo News under its new name, and pretty much had the same response. Perhaps I went a little soft on it, but that’s how likable Kristen Wiig is. Here is my 2 ½ star review.

Thank goodness for the return of Kristen Wiig in a starring role. The former “Saturday Night Live” star has not been the lead in a feature since “Bridesmaids” ruled the box office in 2011, and that’s far too long a wait.

The film that brings her back to a starring role is “Girl Most Likely,” opening here Friday, and it is no “Bridesmaids.” Silly and generally unbelievable, it is still a well-intentioned, often very funny effort, one anchored by Wiig’s inherent likability.

Wiig plays Imogene Duncan (the film’s original title was the far lovelier “Imogene”), a New Yorker who won a prestigious writing award many years before, and was even included on New York magazine’s “list of playwrights to watch.”

Now, she is living with a jerk boyfriend, has wealthy, snobbish, barely tolerable friends, and ponders what happened to her bygone talent. After a breakup, she makes the logical next step – the fake suicide attempt. (You may recall I classified the film as “generally unbelievable.”)

Following this blunder, Imogene is released to the care of the last person in the world she wants to see: her brassy, casino-addicted mother, Zelda, played deliciously by a very funny Annette Bening. Next stop is her childhood home, in Ocean City, N.J.

Zelda lives with a “CIA agent” who calls himself “George Boosh,” and often leaves suddenly on “secret missions” (sigh), and Imogene’s sweet brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), an introverted man-child afraid to leave Jersey.

Ralph considers himself an inventor, spending his time building a giant, impenetrable exoskeleton. In other words, he is nonsensically quirky, dumb quirky, “movie” quirky.

Living in the family home is a boarder, Lee (Darren Criss of “Glee”), a member of an Atlantic City Backstreet Boys’ tribute band. (Between “Girl” and “This Is the End,” this is the best press the Boys have had in two decades.)

Lee and Imogene grow close amid the Ocean City insanity, and he becomes an ally in her attempt to put her life back together. Along the way, she discovers the father she thought was dead may be alive, and in Manhattan, and realizes that the writing inspiration she needed might just come from her family.

Wiig – who, post-“Bridesmaids,” also appeared in a winning but underseen comedy called “Friends With Kids” – will happily play the dorky klutz, and play it well. As Imogene, she is her usual charming, funny, endearing self, to a degree that it becomes rather depressing to watch how horribly everyone treats her.

Imogene’s insistence on being involved with these shoddy folks makes her seem, well, dopey. But Wiig is so talented, from her expressions to her body language, that simply having the chance to watch her on screen for 90 minutes feels like a treat.

Bening, Criss and even an over-the-top Matt Dillon are just amusing enough to rise above the hysterics, but the actor saddled with the film’s weakest – and most unnecessary – role is Fitzgerald, whose Ralph is neither funny nor cute. (I was eager for him to stay in the exoskeleton.)

The screenplay is also a problem. The film’s initial concept – Imogene as former next-big-thing playwright – is mostly dropped, except for the occasional reference. Plus, Imogene’s search for her father takes up way too much screen time, and adds little.

“Girl Most Likely” is directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the husband-and-wife directing team whose career took a nosedive after the great Harvey Pekar story, “American Splendor.” This is another odd digression for the duo, but it is difficult to be too upset with a movie featuring a cameo by Whit Stillman.

No, this is nowhere near as successful as “Bridesmaids” (which Wiig co-wrote), but it is sure to please Wiig’s legion of fans. Still, she deserves to play a character as smart as she is.

I expect that will be very soon, but until then, the mostly likable “Girl Most Likely” will have to suffice.

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions; from The Playlist “Imogene” review

Review: Even Pacino-Free, “Despicable Me 2” is a Summer Success

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“Despicable Me 2” is pummeling “The Lone Ranger” at the box office, and I’m not surprised. It’s a fun movie, one written and directed with style and verve, and easily one of the summer’s more enjoyable films. I actually think it was significantly stronger than Pixar’s “Monsters University.” Here is my three-star review from Thursday’s Buffalo News.

“Despicable Me 2” star Steve Carell brought Maxwell Smart to the big screen in 2008’s “Get Smart” – to rather unmemorable effect, incidentally – so let’s paraphrase that iconic character’s most famous line: Would you believe this animated sequel is a more satisfying summer film than “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel” and almost every other blockbuster released so far this season?

In a weak summer for family-friendly fare – yes, there is “Monsters University” – “Despicable Me 2” qualifies as a true crossover success, a film that should prove as pleasing to both 4- and 40-year-olds.

It is the follow-up to one of 2010’s most successful pictures, which introduced the Bond villain-esque Gru (Carell), a criminal mastermind who adopts three adorable girls – bespectacled Margo, ninja wannabe Edith and cute-as-a-button Agnes – and has a plan to steal the moon.

“Despicable Me” also introduced Gru’s minions, little, yellow, gibberish spouting, Twinkie-like helpers that rank among recent animated cinema’s most clever and humorous creations. (A spinoff is on its way in 2014.)

In the end, Gru changed his ways, and as “Despicable Me 2” opens, he is a doting father, one who is not above dressing as a fairy princess for his youngest daughter’s birthday. Sure, he is painfully single, and misses the thrill of villainy, but Gru is happy in his new suburban bubble.

But when he is approached – OK, kidnapped – by the top-secret Anti-Villain League, Gru returns to work, this time with the good guys. He is soon partnered with the wacky, karate-chopping Lucy (Kristen Wiig), sent undercover as a mall shopkeep.

While on mall duty, a rotund Mexican restaurant owner known as Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt) introduces himself, and Gru finds him vaguely familiar. Meanwhile, his trusted colleague Dr. Nefario finds a new job, Margo falls in love and Gru starts to fall for Lucy.

It all leads to some mutant minions, a villain known as El Macho and lots and lots of red jam. The kids will love every minute of it, even if the mutant minions offer a few scares.

Admittedly, the Gru saga does not stand for much, lacking the emotional oomph of Pixar’s best or the creative force of a “Frankenweenie” or Disney’s old-school finest. But the “Despicable” saga is not as obnoxious as any “Shrek” installment, and offers few reasons for parents to feel uneasy.

The first movie’s directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, are back at the helm, and they’ve crafted a tidy 98-minute sequel. Like “Despicable Me,” the film is a 3-D affair; I would call the 3-D solid but inessential.

For Carell, the film is a certified winner after a rough patch. Following his first outing as Gru, Carell chose one winner, the Chris Schobert Guilty Pleasure Favorite “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” the so-so “Hope Springs” and several duds: “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”

As Gru, Carell is back to his likable best, creating a character who is sweet, funny and just over-the-top enough to serve as a believable ex-villain. Meanwhile, the endlessly lovable Wiig is perfectly cast as Lucy, Russell Brand nicely underplays Dr. Nefario, and Bratt is a surprisingly full-throated treat as Eduardo.

One caveat, however. Al Pacino was originally set to voice Eduardo, and the concept of Tony Montana voicing a character called El Macho feels like some kind of bizarre burst of genius. Sadly, “creative differences” led Pacino to jump ship.

The fact Pacino stayed with Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill” but bailed on “Despicable Me 2” says Gru is not getting the respect he deserves from the animated establishment. But this film’s sure-to-be-robust grosses should more than make up for it. Perhaps Robert De Niro is available for “Despicable Me 3.”

 

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment Copyright: © 2013 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED