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RomCom versus BibCom

This week underscores the essential difference between previews and the movies they hype.  Like comparing video game demos to the full version or a jacket description to the book it covers, the hard sell avoids the bad in favor of augmenting the good.  And if I were sat in a room and asked to view the trailers for The Proposal and Year One, I’d walk out speaking like a Neanderthal and happily thumping a bible.  At first glance, Year One appears to be a throwback to comedy classics like Caveman and History of the World, while the Proposal looks like the same throw up of cute idiots and false happiness that constitutes far too many romantic comedies.  However, looking at the reviews for both movies I’m brought full circle and reminded of why a good preview does not a good movie make.

proposalThe first of this week’s comedy pairing (The Proposal: RT 56% – M 65%) tells the story of a bitchy boss (Sandra Bullock) forcing her employee (Ryan Reynolds) to get engaged to her so she can avoid being exported from the country.  Any critics want to make some extended wedding metaphors?

“The Proposal won’t catch any bouquets for originality, but in terms of a bended-knee pitch for the affections of women — including Ryan Reynolds’ boyish charms, a hip granny and even a beyond-adorable puppy — this romantic comedy pretty much pulls out all the stops.” Variety Brian Lowry

After ‘catch any bouquets’ and ‘bended-knee’, I expected the review to end with something like: The Proposal can walk me down the aisle any time it wants or say “I do” or something.  But alas, when doing this roundup early I have fewer critical options to mine for jokes.

Is the foreign version more traditional or more risque?

Is the foreign version more traditional or more risque?

“The lure of Reynolds’ and Bullock’s nude scene together is sure to fill cinema seats (and raise a smile), but the other 106 minutes of The Proposal prove utterly forgettable.” Liz Graham FILMINK (Australia)

Does this PG-13 nude scene mean that the characters are consummating their marriage a little early?

“Despite the fact The Proposal is predictable and stuffed with recycled schtick, it’s surprisingly enjoyable and completely charming. If it was a baby, you’d want to pinch its little cheek — it’s that cute.” Rebecca Murray About.com

And now there’s a baby involved?  Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves, they haven’t even been on a honeymoon yet.

“[C]ontrived… shameless in its cheap pandering… descend[s] to its most slapsticky just as it’s maybe about to touch on some genuine feeling as if it assumes its audience has the emotional maturity of a kindergartner…” MaryAnn Johanson Flick Filosopher

And now the baby is in kindergarten.  Things are moving fast and my extended metaphor is spinning out of control.

“It sounds like a faint recommendation, but trust me when I say that calling it “not terrible” is high praise indeed.” Marshall Fine Hollywood & Fine

Indeed.  Despite it’s predictability, the Proposal sounds reasonably engaging.  Moving on to the ancient world road comedy (Year One: RT 21%), which judging by the numbers wouldn’t mind being called “not terrible.”
YR1_ADV_IT_1SHT_4“It’s a potentially funny, tricky premise, and in the hands of someone as talented and slightly skewed as writer-director Harold Ramis and a pair of writers from The Office, it should have worked.” Josh Modell AV Club

Okay, it should have worked and didn’t. What went wrong?

“An amiable stroll through biblical times featuring Jack Black and Michael Cera as exiled Neanderthals, Year One lacks seismic guffaws but elicits many mild smiles.” Ronnie Scheib Variety

I don’t know many comedies that produce seismic guffaws.  Some produce quip quakes or tremor tickles.  Does Year One suffer because it doesn’t have enough destructive nature jokes?

“Talk about a disaster of Biblical proportions.” Joe Neumaier New York Daily News

Okay, what do you want me to say?

“Just because the picture’s setting is ancient doesn’t mean the humor has to be, too.” Frank Scheck Hollywood Reporter

One man’s ‘ancient’ is another man’s ‘classic.’

These guys were raising the roof before there was one

These guys were raising the roof before there was one

“Unfortunately, consistent laughs weren’t discovered until year two.” Matt Pais Metromix.com

It can’t be too bad a movie if people are already talking about a sequel.

“Year One is this summer’s The Love Guru, this weekend’s Land of the Lost.” Roger Moore Orlando Sentinel

Ouch.  But, I like everyone involved in the project (Jack Black, Michael Cera, Harold Ramis)…

“Need your fix of Black and Cera? We recommend renting School of Rock and Superbad instead of heading to the theater for this one.” Rick Mele AskMen.com

What about Ramis?

“If Harold Ramis’ Year One were a bowling match, it would lurch between gutter balls and spares, with some scattered lucky strikes.” Michael Sragow Baltimore Sun

Well, that was probably the closest we’re going to get to “Not terrible.”  Enjoy your weekend even if you don’t enjoy the movies.

PDJ was -1,975 years old when Year One was taking place

PDJ was -1,975 years old when Year One was taking place

2 Responses

  1. “Year One” is bad? Oh no! I was suckered by that preview. Conversely, the preview for “The Hangover” tricked me the other way: It made the movie look mediocre, but everyone says it’s great. Ultimately, previews are just plain misleading, I guess.

  2. I got sidetracked by the posters for “The Proposal,” wondering if the different pose for the Russian version was just Photoshop trickery.

    All I was able to conclude was that Sandra Bullock grows an extra leg when she kneels.

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