Wednesday 16 February 2011

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son review

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (PG, 107 mins)
Director: John Whitesell
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The third in the inexplicably popular series in which Martin Lawrence’s FBI agent dresses up a large, elderly woman to solve a crime plumbs new depths of atrociousness, even by the generally desperate standards of family comedies these days. This time out he’s after some Russian villain, and needs to get his hands on an evidence-filled flash drive that has inexplicably been hidden inside a girls’ school. This gives him the opportunity to don his Big Momma costume and turn up at the school with his teenage son (also dressed as a woman because the baddies have him made) whereupon he’s immediately entrusted to be a house mother. The results are jaw-droppingly unfunny, plotted with nothing but laziness and contempt. Entire scenes are constructed solely around Big Momma shaking her can or falling over, and there’s not a single moment that drives the story forward or feels remotely uncontrived. Everyone involved should hang their heads in shame at creating something so unspeakably bad it’s on a level that’s actually quite difficult to comprehend.

Friday 11 February 2011

Paul review

Paul (15, 104 mins)
Director: Greg Mottola
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are Graeme and Clive, a pair of geeks on holiday in the States on a sci-fi tour of the southwest, where they plan to take in Area 51, Roswell and the rest.

But driving through the desert one night, they come across a runaway alien who goes by the name of Paul (computer generated and voiced by Seth Rogen). They go on the run with him, picking up Ruth (Kristen Wiig) on the way, with the government giving chase as well as Ruth’s father and a pair of rednecks.

Beyond that setup, there’s no real plot to speak of, simply a collection of daft set pieces. So it’s just as well that most of what we do get is so entertaining, with some very funny individual lines and moments.

With the vibe of Pegg and Frost’s Spaced, it’s a nicely British take on what’s usually a very American genre, though is it possible the pair are getting just a little long in the tooth to still be playing these guys? It’s their first movie together without Edgar Wright at the helm, and Frost and Pegg also collaborate on a screenplay for the first time.

It’s possible that Wright could have brought a little more pizzazz to proceedings, just as he did with his own recent Anglo-American effort, Scott Pilgrim. He may also have brought a little more polish to a script that’s funny but ultimately rather aimless, one that’s maybe a bit too quick to go for a swear instead of something clever.

Elsewhere, it’s positively bursting with movie references, with practically everything Steven Spielberg has made getting a nod. Apparently Paul has spent much of his time on earth giving sci-fi writers ideas, and one of the best gags sees him on the phone to Spielberg giving him the plot to ET.

There can be no getting away from the fact that Paul is pretty much a one joke movie, the joke being that there’s a smoking, swearing alien with the voice of Seth Rogen. The incongruity of Rogen’s booming tones coming from an archetypal little green man, and his way with words, generates frequent big laughs. If that’s not quite sufficient to hang an entire film on, it’s still enough to provide two hours of undemanding fun. Great title too.