BFI COMEDY GENIUS: Pineapple Express (2008)

Written by Thom Marsh

So, let me tell you a little about The Showroom; a simply delightful independent cinema in Sheffield, where you can get a large Vimto (that’s right, Vimto) and a large popcorn, and still have change from a tenner for the bus home. I mean, that alone is an experience in itself. Now, I must point out as a born and raised Sheffield lad I’ll always have a soft spot for our city’s independent venues, but the experience The Showroom provides is second to none. It may not have the largest screens in the world, and there are no cup holders for your Vimto, but it’s a real hub of culture, and its cosy theatres provide the most relaxed viewing experience you’ll ever have. It’s a venue I frequent regularly, for new releases, old classics and Q+A sessions – I caught a brilliant screening of Planet Of The Apes there just a couple of weeks ago as part of a philosophy season. I couldn’t think of any other cinema I’d rather find myself in for a season of ‘Comedy Genius’.

Which is exactly what I found myself doing on Tuesday evening as The Showroom kicked off the season with their first of four strands: “Stoner and Cult Comedy”. First up was a screening of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s cult hit, Pineapple Express, a film celebrating its 10th birthday this year. I’d love to call this film a classic, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. In an age where attitudes towards cannabis are relaxing, and the negative connotations often related to cannabis are slowly fading, this film really hasn’t aged well at all. In fact, whilst I’m at it, I just want to point out how much I hate the label “Stoner Comedy”. It immediately dictates what you’re going to see in the film; you’re gonna see some friends smoking cannabis, one or all of them is going to do or say something stupid and the “adventure” unravels from there. From Half Baked to Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies (which is set to close the stoner side of things at The Showroom on Saturday 10th November), I just find the entire genre relies far too heavily on negative stereotypes, and the worst thing is, it’s perpetrated by the cannabis smoking community itself.

James Franco said it best when he told Seth: “that’s why your films get nominated for Stoneys and mine get nominated for Oscars”. It’s true, although there are certainly outliers to this. Think Kevin Smith’s Clerks (and the sequel, for that matter). It may not be labelled as “stoner comedy” outright, but for me, is the epitome of what the sub-genre should aspire to be. These films should make us think deep psychological questions, like whether or not the guys working on the Death Star would have let personal politics come in to play when taking on the contract. What I mean to say is, we should expect more than lazy outdated stereotypes.

Whilst parts of this article may feel like an attack aimed at Seth Rogen’s work, I assure you it’s not. In fact, the 2011 film 50/50, starring Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is absolutely fantastic and shows cannabis use in a more positive light. All in all, I feel if I’d have been asked to write this ten years ago, I’d have written a gushing article about how funny and “with the times” it was – 5 stars, no doubt. However, as a fully matured adult (no one can prove otherwise), I’d have to give it a 2.5, maybe a 3. If I was really high watching it.

Nonetheless, it was a fantastic evening and a fitting celebration for a film which remains solid entertainment. I’ll be covering the rest of this strand of the comedy season, with Friday next up on Saturday 3rd November (yep, Friday on Saturday), followed by Dazed and Confused (Wednesday 7th November) and Harold and Kumar on Saturday 10th November.  

For more information, and details of the various workshops and Q+A sessions ongoing throughout the comedy season, click here.

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GRIMMFEST 2018: Anna and the Apocalypse

Year: 2018
Directed by: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Marli Siu, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins

Written by Sasha Hornby

“What if High School Musical had zombies?” When Anna and the Apocalypse was first conceived, this was the pitch. 8 years later, this zom-com Christmas musical is taking the film festival world by storm – and met with uproarious laughter and applause as the Grimmfest closing film. Set in the peaceful British town of Little Haven, a global pandemic threatens to derail Christmas. Anna (Ella Hunt), and her friends, John (Malcolm Cumming), Steph (Sarah Swire), Chris (Christopher Leveaux), Lisa (Marli Siu), plus ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins), must fight and sing their way to survival.

The film opens (after a wonderfully animated opening credits has run) with Anna, and best friend John, getting a lift to school from her dad, Tony (Mark Benton). Some minimal exposition occurs during this journey; as the trio discuss Anna and John’s plans for post-school – Anna wants to travel the world, John wants to go to art school – the radio plays a news bulletin detailing the flu-like disease doing the deadly rounds.

Even those uninitiated in zombie lore know the story from here. The infected die, and their still-animated corpses single-mindedly seek out living humans for sustenance. Meanwhile, our hapless heroes have to traverse their sleepy town, now teeming with the living dead, to reunite with each other. In this respect, Anna and the Apocalypse has little new to add to the undead canon. The same rules apply – don’t get bit, avoid the hordes, aim for the brain. There is a quaint social-commentary attempted as the zombies are easily distracted by flashing lights, glittering tinsel and vlog-style videos made on a phone. For the most part though, the evolution of living to undead is familiar.

What does stand out is the way the kids navigate the end of the world. We all remember being 17, and thinking we’re all grown up and know everything we need to know. The titular Anna is no exception. She’s tough, and practical. And stubborn. She believes she can still go globetrotting, even in the face of Armageddon. Ella Hunt is the perfect choice for Anna, as she exudes effortless cool in every frame. It’s easy to root for her. She also manages to look bad-ass while wielding a novelty candy cane as a weapon. John is Anna’s polar opposite. He’s a little geeky, unashamedly wears a light-up festive jumper, and definitely doesn’t keep his cool. Malcolm Cumming has impeccable comedy timing, playing bumbling yet adorable fool with aplomb. If he doesn’t go on to become a top talent in British comedy, I will be very surprised.

If you thought the only antagonist in Anna and the Apocalypse was the zombies, you’d be dead wrong. John’s nemesis Nick is the school bad boy, played with delicious delight by Ben Wiggins. Wiggins walks with an unrivalled swagger, clearly relishing his big moment crooning about his zombie-killing skills. The real big bad though is acting head-teacher Savage (Paul Kaye), who so clearly hates children, you have to wonder why he ever became a teacher at all! He is utterly demented, void of any compassion, finding the zombie apocalypse a massive inconvenience to his plans for school domination. Kaye is a scene-stealer, delivering each line with a harsh wit. His descent into nihilism is hammed up to 11, with one particular song standing out for hilariously painting Savage as a cartoon villain.

The soundtrack is chocked full of absolute bangers. It has been 3 days since I saw the film, and I am still humming “Hollywood Endings”. To categorise Anna and the Apocalypse is an impossible task. It has been called “La La Land meets Shaun of the Dead.” I say think Glee, but set in Grange Hill, with more blood. Every song is delightful, many laugh out loud. An entirely inappropriate Christmas serenade, sung like a wicked version of the “Jingle Bells Rock” performance in Mean Girls, had me weeping. Everyone commits so fully to the musical trope of bursting into explanative ditties, or emotion-laden refrains, singing and dancing their hearts out for us on screen, they earn your buy-in.

Anna and the Apocalypse is an absurdly good time, dripping in laconic Scottish humour, with a cast of misfits you can’t help but care about. I recommend everybody make this their festive film treat when it’s released in cinemas on November 30.

Sasha’s Verdict

4-5

REVIEW: Johnny English Strikes Again

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Kerr
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko, Charles Dance, Jake Lacy, Ben Miller, Adam James

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2018 British comedy, the third installment in the Johnny English franchise, is directed by David Kerr and stars Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Adam James, Jake Lacy, and Emma Thompson.

When MI7, and soon the whole of the United Kingdom, come under attack from a mysterious cyber-terrorist, all modern forms of surveillance and espionage is made redundant. MI7 chief Pegasus (James) and the Prime Minister (Thompson) bring an “old school agent” out of retirement.

Johnny English (Atkinson) and fellow agent Bough (Miller) are tasked to hunt down the source of the terrorist threat and find out who is behind the crippling attacks on the country. Their investigation takes them to the South of France, London, and Scotland.

English and Bough come up against the mysterious Russian Ophelia Bulletova (Kurylenko) and the brilliant techno-billionaire Jason Volta (Lacy). English must use “old school” espionage to unmask the terrorist behind the attacks and save not just Queen and Country, but the entire world…

15 years since Rowan Atkinson’s former credit card advert creation Johnny English hit the big screen going up against John Malkovich, and 7 years since his return to go up against Dominic West, now he is back to take down Jake Lacy. A real international bout of villains that continue to mirror the world of 007.

It’s clear that English returns to action as the world sniffs once more around espionage and spy films. 2003 saw the uncertain future of James Bond. 2011 was mid James Bond / Daniel Craig fever. 2018 sees ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘ reignite the spy genre with new levels set on action, stunts, humour and star quality.

But they’re all so…big and bold and brutal! Rowan Atkinson brings forward his fictional MI7 agent in another round of family-friendly goofs and gags, slapstick antics, face gurning, mumbling and dead-pan comedy of which Atkinson is a master of. It’s just a shame he’s not given MORE to flex his comedy muscles because we’ve seen this all before. Not that it’s a bad thing – if you are still on board with the series for this third outing, you know what to expect and it’s not ‘Casino Royale’.

When bullets and bombs are replaced with baguettes and blow-pipe breadsticks, this is nothing but silly fun in an all too serious world we live in. Cyber terrorism is the narrative here, and perfect reasoning for a spy who uses no cellular phone, no computer chipped car or other means of technology to get in and do the job. The story is actually very well thought out but nothing too taxing. It’s very basic, not very tense, but just the right sort of global-trekking jaunt you need for 85mins of silliness. However, there are a few great set pieces such as stylish Aston Martin driving across the South of France, a well-executed Scottish finale and virtual reality chaos across London.

Atkinson and Miller return as the original duo from 2003 and work just as well together as they did then. Support comes from former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko who is a perfect “is she/isn’t she” femme fatale. Lacy is our charming and glaringly obvious villain from the get-go, and Emma Thompson does her best “not Theresa May” version of a Theresa May-inspired Prime Minister. A good cast and plot that all work much better than ‘Johnny English Reborn’.

The silly laughs come thick and fast from Atkinson, whether he’s failing as a French waiter, failing to infiltrate a luxury yacht, failing to seduce a Russian spy or failing to…well, just failing at most things! Yet it’s that lovable, bumbling but self-assured delivery of physical and verbal comedy that won’t bust a gut with laughter, but certainly have you chuckling away.

The family-friendly themes running throughout are a forgotten gem in this day and age. If something comes across like this, then it’s seen as weak and stupid, but why shouldn’t audiences of all ages be allowed to watch things without swearing, violence, sex or gratuitous action. Tone things down, have some brainless fun for a while and just giggle away as you remember real life shouldn’t always be so serious, intense and loud.

Johnny English is the antidote to in-your-face Hollywood cinema excess, doing it in the most British way possible.

CHRIS’ RATING:

3

The Spy Who Dumped Me

Year: 2018
Directed by: Susanna Fogel
Starring: Mika Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan

WRITTEN BY ELENA MORGAN

Audrey (Mila Kunis) is down after being dumped and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) is doing her best to cheer her up. That doesn’t go to plan when Audrey’s ex Drew (Justin Theroux) resurfaces, tells them that he’s a spy, that assassins are after him and that Audrey must complete his mission.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is an action-comedy hybrid but it never really finds the balance between those two things. It’s an uneven film with jokes that are more likely to cause a smile rather than a full-on belly laugh and the action is good but not amazing. The action sequences are generally well shot and exciting, with the opening sequence of Drew fighting off bad guys in Lithuania being a standout. A car chase through Vienna where Audrey surprises herself, Morgan and the audience, by dealing with the violence and threat better than she could’ve ever imagined, is a pretty fun action sequence too and a good character moment.

The plot itself is messy, with Audrey and Morgan travelling from one European country to another at breakneck speed – so much so, it’s hard to keep up with what country they are now in and what they are supposed to do there. The script could’ve been a bit tighter, you do notice the two-hour runtime, and the actual spy plot could’ve made more sense.

Where The Spy Who Dumped Me shines is during the quieter moments between Audrey and Morgan, or any time the two of them are struggling to deal with the spy madness together. They are two people who you believe are best friends, they have in-jokes, they know each other’s secrets and they stand up for one another. Kunis and McKinnon have great chemistry and Kunis shows off her wit when balancing out McKinnon’s exuberance.

The Spy Who Dumped Me never quite finds its rhythm. Its leads are fun, and their characters are almost better than the story they’re in. Unfortunately, the spy plot is never truly thrilling, and the humour is never hilarious so the film merely ends up being just…fine.

ELENA’S RATING:

3

 

The Festival

Year: 2018
Directed by: Iain Morris
Cast: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty

Written by Cameron Frew

The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 hit sitcom about a ragtag group of loveably crude schoolboys, very much captured the zeitgeist. So much so, it has become a rite of passage for each generation since it hit the small screen, much to parents’ dismay. The series spawned two movies, both majorly successful in their own right, earning reasonable reviews and decent box office takings. The man behind such cherished phrases like “bumder” and “bus wankers”, Iain Morris, has been fairly quiet the past few years though. He’s now reunited with former Inbetweener Joe Thomas and headlining the tail end of the summer film roster with The Festival, a humorous if detrimentally familiar little romp.

After Nick (Joe Thomas) breaks up with his girlfriend and has a sizeably embarrassing breakdown at his university graduation, his best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) drags him out of his rut to one of the biggest music festivals of the year. The love-sick blues are not aided by peppy, uber-friendly festival goer Amy (Claudia O’Docherty), nor is bumping into his uni ‘friends’ including his ex, or the extreme conditions at an event like this, which he does not consider fun.

Thomas, whose most recent commendable work was in the underrated White Gold (also a Morris product), loses his amusing charm here. He’s essentially playing a more selfish, uptight version of his more famous character, Simon. While initially he has some pretty funny moments, such as the opening sex scene which ends up ruining his gown (alongside ex-Inbetweener ex-girlfriend, Hannah Tointon), he quickly becomes an annoying presence, a narrative tool essential for moving the film forward but unessential for any form of fulfillment. Morris makes very predictable plays for his character, resulting in stale, contrived development. Project X wasn’t a perfect movie, but we believed the plight of our main ‘hero’ and his ascent into party infamy. Nick is a bore who has an epiphany – that’s not good writing. The script overall is lacking, nowhere near as keenly observed as Morris’ famed sitcom.

One of the huge, glaring flaws with The Festival, particularly as a fan, is it’s essentially the exact same film as The Inbetweeners Movie, but set against a British summer backdrop. Nick breaks up with his girlfriend, goes somewhere to get over her, ends up meeting her there, and decides that this’ll be his quest to get back together with her – just like Simon. But unlike its predecessor, The Festival doesn’t have three seasons of television to build up the audience’s relationship with its main character, so Nick feels like some sort of imposter, a copycat if you will, without all the quirks we expect.

He joins a cast which are stuffed with unlikeable characters who are fed the odd redeeming line or plot-point, but for the most part are caricatures of festival stereotypes, from the obnoxious outsider who gets with the girls (again, like The Inbetweeners Movie), to the stuck-up glampers, to the drugged-up idiots who pee on your head. It gets to the point where someone who is written as being an aggravating character ends up turning into the best thing about the film. O’Docherty’s Amy is like a wildfire, “exciting, but you wouldn’t want it near your house”, boisterous, enthusiastic and looking for pals. She is smartly given her own side plot, alongside Animashaun’s Shane (also a fantastic contribution, immediately likeable), where they go off getting to know each other, and run into some pretty strange sights involving goats. They say it’ll probably make a great anecdote one day, but they’ll add it to the 12 other things they’re carrying to their grave. Their misadventures are funny and freshly written; new hilariously wacky situations that lend the film weight to being more than an Inbetweeners follow up.

But aside from a few cracking cameos from Nick Frost and Noel Fielding, the film never soars to achieve the uproarious laughter it should. It often descends into music video-esque montages and overlong set pieces that get awkward fast. The cycle of Nick may feel unearned, but the closing sequence at least brings the trio together, and ties up any loose ends in the process. But, like a music festival you weren’t that bothered about going to in the first place, you’d be better off watching the highlights.

Watchable, but unforgivably derivative – was it not a bit early to have a remake of The Inbetweeners Movie?

Cameron’s Rating:

2

Tag

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Jeff Tomsic
Starring: Jeremy Renner, John Hamm, Jake Johnson, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher

WRITTEN BY ELENA MORGAN

The true story of a group of friends who, for one month every year, continue playing the same game of tag they started when they were kids. But this year, Jerry (Jeremy Renner) who has never been tagged, plans to retire from the game once he’s married and this is the last chance for his friends to get him.

‘Tag’ is a lot of fun and is laugh out loud funny. The action sequences of various characters trying to tag Jerry, and other participants in the game, are all well-shot and innovative. When Jerry is the one being ambushed, everything slows down as he takes in what’s happening, then there’s a voiceover from him as he commentates on what his friends are doing and how he’s going to beat them. Everything works so well together in those sequences.

The cast are all brilliant. They all have great chemistry and you really buy into them being childhood friends, even though they are all at different stages of their lives. Hoagie (Ed Helms) is married to super competitive Anna (Isla Fisher) who must make do with helping the guys out as the rules the friends made up when they were kids state that girls are not allowed to play. Bob (Jon Hamm) is a high-flying businessman, Chilli (Jake Johnson) is divorced and almost constantly high and Sable (Hannibal Buress) is in therapy. It’s clear that this game of tag has kept them in touch over all these years as no one wants to be the person tagged by June 1st.

Some of the supporting female cast do get short-changed. Rashida Jones has little to do when she shows up mid-way through, and Annabelle Wallis’s journalist is mainly there as a stand-in for the audience, asking the right questions at the right time to help move some of the more character-driven stuff along. Ed Helms does play a very Ed Helms-esque character but it’s always great to see Jon Hamm show off his comedy skills and it’s a pleasant surprise to see how funny Jeremy Renner can be. As an actor that’s typically seen in more serious roles, it was fun to see his droll sense of humour, and that almost cackle-like laugh, on screen.

‘Tag’ is a comedic action film and it does a fine job of balancing those two aspects. There are a few jokes that edge very close to being in bad taste, it’s almost like watching a car crash happen in slow motion as other characters know that what a character is saying is not good but there’s little they can do to stop it. At least the film seems to be aware of the barriers it’s pushing, and the rest of the jokes are funny and unoffensive.

The story does lag a bit in the middle but the chemistry and jokes between these characters see you through till the next big game of tag. The thing that’s surprising about ‘Tag’ is how heartfelt it is. In the end, this film pulls you into these guys friendship and that makes this entertaining film unexpectedly sweet.

ELENA’S RATING:

4

Ocean’s Eight

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Poulson, Awkwafina

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

The ‘all-female reboot’ has been a controversial trend in recent movies, none more so than ‘Ghostbusters’, a film which I loved, after growing up with and being a huge fan of the originals. Although many have been mooted (let’s pray the female ‘Lord of the Flies’ never happens), only two high-profile examples have come to fruition, with ‘Ocean’s Eight‘ being the second. These reboots have been unpopular with some men (the ‘Ghostbusters ruined my childhood’ crowd) and also some women, who believe we should have new, original and risk-taking material for teams of women to star in, instead of rehashing male-dominated franchises. I fall somewhere in between; I have mostly found them fun, but my biggest issue is that they don’t have women directors or predominantly female crews. The female empowerment aspect feels somewhat empty without the women being behind, as well as in front of the camera.

When I first heard about the cast of ‘Ocean’s Eight‘, I couldn’t help but get excited. As each name was announced and added to the impressive roster, the anticipation built. Then on-set photos were released, revealing the ultra-cool costuming, especially of Cate Blanchett’s character in her velvet suits and scarves. The press tour has blessed us even further in terms of spectacular outfits and great humour, chemistry and flirtations between the cast members. With a cast clearly having this much fun, making and promoting a film, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love.

The film begins with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) blagging her way out of jail and immediately returning to her old criminal ways, which clearly run in the family. She contacts her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), with whom she certainly shares a history, which seems both professional and personal. Debbie has spent her jail time (including deliberately landing herself in solitary) planning an elaborate heist (it wouldn’t be an Oceans film without one) and sets about assembling the team she needs. Key to the plan is fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), who Debbie recruits to dress film star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) for the event of the year – the Met Gala Ball. She wants Rose to pretend that she simply must have a 150-million dollar necklace from the vaults of Cartier to adorn the neck of Daphne and then the team can steal it. Further members of the team include diamond expert and forger Amita (Mindy Kaling), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), multi-talented suburban Mum Tammy (my favourite; Sarah Paulson) and lastly, in an inspired piece of casting, hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna).

The sparkling and in some cases, sizzling chemistry between the cast is definitely the main strength of this film. There is undeniable tension between Bullock and Blanchett especially, although the plot does hinge around revenge against Bullock’s ex-boyfriend (played by The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage). The glamour of the Met Ball is obviously a big selling point, including an abundance of celebrity cameos. The outfits, coupled with the actual exhibition of crown jewels makes for an impossibly beautiful backdrop and you cannot help but be sucked in by it. There is lots of humour, with Hathaway being particularly great as the spoiled film star who hasn’t eaten for days. Flavours of the familiar score from the original films are featured throughout, along with the trademark split-screen style.

Look, I don’t know what else to tell you. I watched this film in a gorgeous setting, with a cocktail, quality savoury snacks and a good friend. That may have prejudiced me in favour of this film, but so what? It’s meant to be an easy-going, fun, enjoyable ride for women (especially) to enjoy on a Friday night (as we did) and that’s exactly what it is. I really hope Rihanna continues making movies in exactly the vein of this and ‘Valerian‘ because it’s Rihanna and she does what the f**k she wants. As for the continuation of the ‘female reboot’ trend? It’s hard to say at this stage if I’m for or against. I certainly am here for films with amazing ensemble casts of incredible women. If they are new, original and have women directors, all the better.

FIONA’S RATING:

3

 

 

Set It Up

Year: 2018
Directed by: Claire Scanlon
StarringZoey DeutchGlen PowellLucy Liu, Pete Davidson, Taye Diggs

WRITTEN BY ELENA MORGAN

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are two stressed out assistants who each have a high maintenance boss, sports reporter Kristen (Lucy Liu) and business mogul Rick (Taye Diggs). When they decide to play matchmaker on their two work-crazy bosses, maybe they can spread some romance and get their freedom.

A good rom-com is built on the chemistry of its leads and Deutch and Powell have it in spades. While the main story is getting Kirsten and Rick together, we all know that Harper and Charlie are who we’re really rooting for. What makes their relationship so great is that you see it grow from slight mistrust and sassy one-liners to a real solid friendship with the hints of something more. Both Deutch and Powell have great comedic timing as well, Deutch is almost overflowing with charisma while Powell’s physical comedy is hilarious.

‘Set It Up’ manages to poke fun at rom-com cliches without being ashamed of them, and in fact, it full on embraces them at times. The witty script keeps the antics coming as Harper and Charlie conspire to keep Kristen and Rick together but still leaves time to flesh out the lives of its leads.

Harper and Charlie both have lives outside of work and separate from one another, making them more well-rounded characters. Charlie is dating a model, and his roommate Duncan (Pete Davidson) offers sarcastic but fair commentary on Charlie’s life – when he doesn’t have a guy over that is. Harper’s an aspiring writer and when her best friend gets engaged, she has the very relatable gut reaction of “We’re not old enough to get married.” Their friends push the plot forward and are there to give the leads encouragement without being either annoying nor pointless.

‘Set It Up’ is a modern rom-com in many ways. It never belittles the fact that Kristen has prioritised her career over having a husband/kids, it sees Charlie encouraging Harper’s aspirations and while Harper is clearly stressed out by Kirsten’s demands, it’s clear she admires her and everything she’s achieved.

There’s probably more to say about the somewhat problematic racial dynamics of ‘Set It Up’ but I don’t have the nuance for it. But be aware Diggs’s Rick is a very angry man who frequently wrecks his office when things don’t go his way. Also, while Kristen is a surprisingly layered character, the film doesn’t exactly show off Lucy Liu’s talents.

That being said, ‘Set It Up’ is a funny and charming rom-com. While its runtime could’ve been a bit shorter, the snappy script and the great cast makes it a very enjoyable film that shows how good romantic comedies can be.

ELENA’S RATING:

4

Life of the Party

Year: 2018
Director: Ben Falcone
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Matt Walsh, Molly Gordon, Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs

Written by Elena Morgan

After her husband suddenly asks for a divorce, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) decides to join her teenage daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at college so she can finally complete her degree.

‘Life of the Party’ was a very pleasant surprise. It is funny, both smile inducing gags and proper laugh out loud moments, but it’s also really very sweet and heartfelt.

Typically, you’d think that the main conflict Deanna would have to face is the fact she’s at her daughter’s college, and her daughter would be embarrassed by her and not want to be around her. That’s not the case at all. Yes, Maddie is a bit shocked when her mother enrolls in her college and there’s some embarrassing stories about her courtesy of her mum, but she really gets behind her mum wanting to better herself almost straightaway. In fact, Deanna’s core group of friends at college is her daughter and her daughter’s friends and sorority sisters.

Deanna’s best friend Christine (Maya Rudolph) is so supportive, and hilarious, and I think that’s what makes ‘Life of the Party’ so great. It has all these women of different ages, being comfortable around one another and supporting each other. The relationship between Deanna and Maddie is one of the best and most loving mother-daughter relationships I’ve seen on screen for a while.

While the characters are all brilliant, the actual plot doesn’t really present much conflict for Deanna. So, while you like her, and want her to prove her ex-husband wrong and get her degree, there’s nothing really standing in the way of that. There is the typical mean girl played by Debbie Ryan, but as Deanna is so much older than her, nothing she says gets her down. Besides from that there’s nothing for Deanna to overcome until late in the third act and everything is sorted out pretty quickly and neatly anyway.

‘Life of the Party’ is a funny, sweet and kind of charming film. By and large it is predictable, but the cast makes the ride a fun time.

Elena’s Rating: 

3.5