reel reviews
movie reviews
June '08

WANTEDWALL*E
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDUREGET SMARTMONGOLTHE LOVE GURU
THE INCREDIBLE HULKJELLYFISHTHE HAPPENING
KUNG FU PANDAYOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHANWEDDING WEEKEND

Ratings range from "0" (watch TV instead) to "5" (a must-see).

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Wanted
Reviewed by Deborah Young

Cross the moral of Office Space with the visual trickery of The Matrix and you’d get Wanted, the cinematic adaptation of the “Wanted” comic book series by writer Mark Millar and artist J. G. Jones. This flick should create some excitement inside theatres this summer. Even moviegoers who don’t typically fancy action films will probably get heart palpitations at the sight of the abundant camera tricks and athletic stunts in this antihero story.

Wanted tells the story of a timid office burnout (James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson) who gets recruited into an international assassin’s organization known as the Fraternity. His first encounter with the group comes when he meets Fox (played by Angelina Jolie) in a grocery store. A gun battle ensues, and she assumes the role of his protector. The gunfight goes from the store to the street for one of the film’s most thrilling sequences.

Fox swoops Wesley up in a red Dodge Viper and flees. A whimpering Wesley slinks down in the passenger seat as she drives against oncoming traffic, flips the Viper over other cars, and at one point, climbs out onto the hood to get a better shot at their pursuer.

In short order Wesley goes from office cubicle to textile factory. The Fraternity operates out of the factory and trains Wesley there. A team led by a fatherly and philosophical Sloan (Morgan Freeman) teaches Wesley how to handle knives and guns, how to fight and how to run atop trains.

Camera tricks and stunts have these characters flying through the air, leaping from building to building, and shooting around objects and people. The cast, particularly Jolie and McAvoy are believable citizens of a fictional world.

But beneath the eye-candy and adrenaline-inducing action lies an old-school story about a man opting to rise above the mediocre existence of a working drone and about the trials of his transformation. Wanted is basically the Tiger Woods story, but bullets have replaced golf balls, and F-bombs have replaced G-rated language.

This story is never mundane and rarely predictable. Screenwriters Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan have juxtaposed voiceovers with disparate action to create some very funny moments, particularly in the first 45 minutes of the film when Wesley is working in a cubicle for a tyrannical woman who’s constantly clicking her stapler in his face.

Sometimes Wanted doesn’t make much sense, but who cares. It gets the heart racing and ignites a desire to live vicariously through these charming and fearless characters. (R) 3.5 (Posted 06/27/08)


WALL*E
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Make it nine for nine for Pixar, giving the renowned animation studio a perfect record.

The folks behind Toy Story and The Incredibles have redefined what a feature length cartoon can be and raised the bar for everyone else. Their latest effort is called Wall*E and it offers a gentle message about environmentalism disguised as an eye-popping futuristic comedy.

Writer/director Andrew Stanton had been tinkering with the story idea for many years and thanks to the success he enjoyed with Finding Nemo, he got the green light to bring his cautionary tale to the big screen.

The movie takes place a few hundred years in the future and focuses on a small, lone robot named Wall*E, who is basically a mobile trash compactor.

When the story begins, we learn that Earth was rendered uninhabitable by humanity’s rampant consumerism and disregard for the environment. In their haste to get away, someone forgot to turn off Wall*E who, for 700 years, has dutifully followed his “directive” to clean up the mess.

Compacting and stacking humanity’s garbage into structures that dwarf skyscrapers, Wall*E spends his down time watching an old video of Hello, Dolly and dreaming of romance. His lone companion is a tiny cockroach who seems content to watch Wall*E as he goes about his daily duties.

Things change dramatically for our hero when a probe droid named Eve returns to Earth to see whether or not any vegetation has managed to regenerate in Earth’s harsh atmosphere. Wall*E becomes infatuated with Eve and stows away on her rocket when she finds a sapling to take back to the mother ship.

The computer-generated visuals are stunning and the story is inventive and touching. Wall*E is imaginative in every aspect of its execution and manages to clearly tell most of its story without dialogue.

Unlike most of the other Pixar films, Wall*E doesn’t rely on much voice talent. Although Ben Burtt and Elissa Knight are credited with providing the voices of Wall*E and Eve, their “dialogue” consists mostly of computer-enhanced bleeps and beeps.

Once humans come into the picture, we hear the voice of Pixar’s good luck charm, John Ratzenberger, as well as those of Sigorney Weaver and Kathy Najimy and John Garlin. Fred Williard appears as the CEO of BNL, the corporation that took over Earth’s government.

While Wall*E may be a bit too sophisticated for very young kids, it is a satisfying family flick that manages to entertain while taking a sly poke at rampant consumerism. (G) Rating: 4.5 (Posted 06/27/08)


Standard Operating Procedure
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

It is now common knowledge that American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were responsible for torturing prisoners of war. This was allowed to happen in spite of the fact that it is strictly forbidden in stated U.S. policy and by international law.

Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War) turns his attention to this phenomenon in his disturbing work, Standard Operating Procedure. By focusing on the infamous events at the Abu Ghraib prison, Morris sheds some light on this unsettling embarrassment for the American military.

Morris interviews most of the principals who were at the heart of the incidents. Many of these have served or are still serving prison sentences for actions that were exposed in photographs that circulated on the Internet.

But unfortunately, Morris makes a big mistake by interspersing self-consciously arty visuals and dramatic reenactments along with the talking heads. An overbearing musical score by Danny Elfman (The Kingdom) is problematic as well. As a result of these distractions, Standard Operating Procedure loses much of the intended impact.

Morris scored a coup by managing to get so many of these soldiers to talk on camera. But news that these interviewees were paid for their participation (usually considered a documentary no-no) casts some doubt on the veracity of their testimony.

There is a lot of finger pointing and blame dodging during these interviews. Morris employs a teleprompter-like device that allows the participants to speak directly to the camera and make eye contact with the audience. When they obfuscate, they do so directly to the viewer.

The most infamous of the guilty parties is Lynndie England, a female soldier who was seen in the circulated photos walking a prisoner on a dog leash, giving the “thumbs-up” to a human pyramid of naked prisoners and pointing gleefully at detainees who were forced to masturbate in her presence.

In her defense, she blames her then-boyfriend, a military policeman named Charles Graner. Apparently it was all his idea. Conveniently, Graner was not interviewed for the film.

Morris briefly deals with the contention that Army brass and White House officials encouraged the soldiers’ methods, but this isn’t given much attention. Still, he captures some damning remarks by former Brigadier General and head of the Abu Ghraib prison, Janis Karpinski. (She was subsequently busted to colonel.)

In spite of Morris’ self-indulgent and unnecessary filmmaking flourishes, Standard Operating Procedure still packs a punch. But for a more powerful and straightforward look at the subject, try Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning entry, Taxi to the Dark Side. (R) Rating: 3 (Posted 06/20/08)


Get Smart
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Would you believe that Hollywood has gone back to the TV well to draw up a serving of 1960’s nostalgia? Don’t the studio honchos know that most contemporary moviegoers have never heard of Maxwell Smart?

Well, of course, they do know. Although they’d certainly like to see middle-aged Don Adams fans lined up at the box office, they’re realists. They’re actually hoping that fans of The Forty-Year-Old Virgin and TV’s The Office will turn out to see Steve Carell put on Agent 86’s shoe phone in an updated version of Get Smart.

The original series that ran from 1965 to 1970 was the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It spoofed James Bond gadgetry and Cold War politics by focusing on a bungling secret agent named Maxwell Smart, an operative with an American spy agency called CONTROL. He was in constant conflict with agents of KAOS, a dastardly group seeking worldwide…well…chaos.

Screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember (Failure to Launch) have employed the same tactic as the latest James Bond and Batman flicks. Although the setting is contemporary, the story shows our hero beginning his evolution into a super agent.

A capable but anal analyst for CONTROL, Maxwell Smart longs to be an agent. His boss, the Chief (Alan Arkin from Little Miss Sunshine), feels that Max is too valuable at his desk job to move into another role.

But Max gets his chance when the nefarious KAOS gang manages to bomb CONTROL headquarters. With only a few capable people to choose from, the Chief teams Max with the comely Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway from The Devil Wears Prada) for an important mission.

Of course, the plot is irrelevant. We just want to laugh at Max’s ineptitudes, and Carell complies. While he’s more savvy than Don Adams’ original, he’s every bit as maladroit.

Hathaway provides little more than eye candy, but Dwane “The Rock” Johnson has some fun with the role of super suave CONTROL agent 23 and Arkin’s deadpan delivery as the Chief works to perfection. Terrance Stamp (September Dawn) brings a pokerfaced menace to the role of the main KAOS villain, Siegfried.

Director Peter Segal (50 First Dates) mounts a number of action sequences, some of which were shot in downtown Moscow. (My, things have certainly changed since the days of the Cold War.)

While Get Smart manages to amuse, does it hit the bull’s-eye? Nope. Missed it by that much. (PG-13) Rating: 3 (Posted 06/20/08)


Mongol
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

It would seem that the days of the sweeping epic are over. Ever since the passing of David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1991, no one else has picked up the baton.

Russian director Sergei Bodrov (Nomad) attempts to capture some of the same kind of wide screen splendor that Lean was famous for in Mongol, a historical opus about legendary Mongol warrior, Genghis Khan (“Universal Ruler”).

Although the film may not be historically accurate, Bodrov and co-writer Arif Aliyev paint a sympathetic portrait of the man who helped establish the one of history’s greatest empires in the 12th century.

Noted Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano takes the leading role, but much of the film concentrates on the character’s early life when a youngster named Odnyam Odsuren plays the part. The traumatic events of his childhood present a trail by fire, forging a strong body and an iron will.

The tale begins as our 9-year-old hero named Temujin is on a long cross-country journey with his father, the acting Khan, to visit a remote tribe. As a gesture of peace and cooperation, his father has agreed to have his son chose a future bride from this tribe. But during a rest stop, Temujin chooses a girl from another tribe, a decision that will have profound ramifications for all.

After an enemy poisons Temujin’s father, a rival usurps the role of Khan. Since Mongol tradition prevents the boy from being slain, too, Temujin is forced to flee and to fend for himself until he reaches the age where he can be killed.

The years pass, and Temujin becomes wiser and stronger as a result of his difficulties. Eventually, he returns for his bride and to take vengeance upon those who wronged him.

Beautifully photographed by Rogier Stoffers and Sergei Trofimov, Mongol is a visually arresting film. The steppes of the Mongol territory are a virtual character, constantly interacting with our human leads.

Bodrov gives the movie a spiritual overlay by having Temujin pray to the Mongol god, show repeatedly in the guise of a wolf. The romance between Temujin and his bride is predominate throughout, giving us a sympathetic view of the man who would later leave a bloody trail across a fifth of the world’s land mass.

There are some impressive battle sequences and sporadically effective moments, but the pace of the film is frustratingly erratic. Plus, the movie’s jumps in time are sometimes jarring.

But for epic eye candy, Mongol is hard to beat. (R) Rating: 3(Posted 06/20/08)


The Love Guru
Reviewed by Deborah Young

Hip-hop culture brought us the “keepin’ it real” can of worms. Like a container of mixed nuts, it carries disparate ingredients: a dignified distaste for the practice of pretending to be more than human and an inordinate affection for the basest human urges.

Those familiar with actor and writer Mike Myers can probably guess which value he took from the keepin’-it-real can for his latest movie, The Love Guru.

Myers plays Guru Pitka, a chastity-belt-wearing guru who writes self-help books and gives motivational seminars about love in general and self-love in particular. Pitka aspires to exceed the popularity of his rival, Deepak Chopra, and he figures the best path to that achievement would be the Oprah show.

Pitka’s big shot comes when Jane (played by Jessica Alba) approaches Pitka. Jane owns the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, and she wants Pitka to work with the team’s grieving star player, Darren (Romany Malco). Darren’s skills on the ice left when his wife (Megan Goode as Prudence) left him for L.A. Kings star Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (played by Justin Timberlake).

If Pitka can help Darren win back his wife and his confidence, Pitka will surely gain popularity and get Oprah’s attention. Unfortunately, the road to Darren’s enlightenment is paved with the lowest of lowbrow humor.

The highlights (or lowlights as it were) include elephants having sex, elephant dung falling on someone, and a host of sex and body part jokes. Some boys between the ages of eight and thirteen might delight in each incarnation of the same sex gags, the rest of us — not so much.

The only impressive aspect of this film is the number of celebrities that appear. The list includes Deepak Chopra, Ben Kingsley and Kanye West.

But the celebs couldn’t rescue The Love Guru from juvenile dialogue and tastelessness. The movie is an unfortunate and unapologetic fugue of banal humor with variations on the themes of self-love and man-part worship. (PG-13) Rating: .5 (Posted 06/20/08)


The Incredible Hulk
Reviewed by Deborah Young

The juxtaposition of old and new in the latest Hulk movie evokes a couple questions: Was the hulk more convincing and endearing when he was just an actor in green makeup? And do 21st century filmmakers have to use CGI just because they have it?

Back in the day (on The Incredible Hulk TV series that aired from 1978 to 1982) a 6-foot-4-inch tall body builder named Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk. The late Bill Bixby played the Hulk’s alter ego, scientist David Bruce Banner, whose exposure to gamma rays caused him to turn green when he got angry.

Today’s Hulk is a 9-foot tall special effects project. His shaggy locks recall images of the Jolly Green Giant from green bean commercials. His superhuman size brings to mind King Kong, particularly when the Hulk interacts with his lady friend (Liv Tyler as Betty Ross).

This CGI Hulk is made more conspicuous than he would normally be because the filmmakers pay homage to the TV series. In an early scene a television in the background is playing The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (which featured Bixby as Eddie’s father). Then Ferrigno appears as a security guard.

The Incredible Hulk 2008 also pays homage to the TV series by emphasizing the isolation of Banner (played by Edward Norton, who also served as a co-writer). Like his TV version this cinematic incarnation of Banner is on the run, sacrificing his love life and his social life to flee folks that would use his idiosyncrasies for sinister purposes.

To his credit, director Letterier uses location and cinematography to convey Banner’s isolation. Banner is often seen alone in larger than life natural environments. Even when he’s in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and New York, Banner’s obviously alone. The camera dramatizes this by capturing other humans as mere background images, mostly keeping Banner as the focal point.

A great example of this alone-in-a-crowd feel is an early scene in which General Ross (William Hurt) has found Banner working in a bottling plant in Rio de Janeiro. Ross sends his men to capture Banner, but the scientist runs through a favela. The stacks of impromptu homes remind us of the awesome bulk of humanity while Banner runs and hides, briefly encountering a woman from the factory but not speaking to her.

But Letterier increased the action and the screenwriters added the Abomination, a monster fiercer than the Hulk. This new monster creates the need for a fight-to-the-finish battle between two super-sized creatures, which calls for an explosion of special effects.

Oddly, special effects supervisor Kurt Williams was quoted in the production notes as saying that the team decided to make the Hulk 9-feet tall “because it would still allow him to relate to human beings and not be so big that he would be almost alien or unbelievable.”

Well, wouldn’t a human actor who’s say 6-feet tall be even more relatable?

In any event, Norton added nuance to the isolated scientist. Tyler was adequate as a woman in love with a complex man, and Tim Roth (as Emil Blonsky) created a simply sinister character determined to gain the power of superhuman genes.

With a runtime just shy of two hours, The Incredible Hulk seems longer, but stunning photography, commanding performances and some captivating action sequences minimize the boredom factor. (PG-13) Rating: 3 (Posted 06/13/08)


Jellyfish
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Sometimes a film delivers simple pleasures that, individually, may seem very slight. When a sufficient number of them come together, they can provide a gratifying movie-going experience.

Such is the case with Jellyfish, an Israeli film that won the 2007 Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It is an award given for best first feature, and this debut by Israeli filmmakers Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret certainly shows promise.

A gentle comic drama, Jellyfish focuses on three seemingly unrelated Israeli women who are coping with varied troubles.

Batia (Sarah Adler) lives alone in a leaky, spare apartment after her boyfriend moves out. She’s estranged from her mother, a successful motivational speaker, and father, a deadbeat dad who is dating a much younger woman suffering from bulimia.

Working as a waitress at wedding receptions, Batia is browbeaten by her oppressive boss. Lightly brushing by her life are a bride and groom (Noa Knoller and Gera Sandler) who are forced to hole up in a seedy hotel after the bride breaks her foot.

One guest at the wedding is a somber Filipino woman (Ma-nenita De Latorre) who works as a caregiver for the elderly. A stranger-in-a-strange-land who doesn’t speak Hebrew, she laments the fact that she is separated from her five-year-old son back in the Philippines. When she and her boy share brief phone conversations, the frustrated youngster tells his mother that he doesn’t believe that Israel exists.

One day at the beach, Batia’s life is shaken up by the arrival of a tiny, wide-eyed tyke who seemingly walks out of the ocean all alone with only a small inner tube around her waist. Unable to find her parents, Batia escorts the mysteriously silent child to the police, who seem unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Reluctantly, Batia takes the little girl home with her and begins to bond with the redheaded waif.

The filmmakers intermingle the storylines, and we observe the ongoing frustrations experiences by the honeymooners and the trials of the Filipino woman as she takes on a new, reluctant client.

Adler and Keret take on a lot in Jellyfish, employing magic realism and recitation of poetry to convey a nebulous existential message. But their effort has a lot of heart.

Although it gets a little cryptic as it comes to its somewhat pretentious conclusion, Jellyfish is a warm and poignant examination of the seemingly random ways in which people touch one another. (No MPAA rating) Rating: 3 (Posted 06/13/08)


The Happening
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

When M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with his sensational third movie, The Sixth Sense, moviegoers sensed that this was a filmmaker for the ages.

But we’re still waiting for him to deliver on that promise. His subsequent work has had its ups (Signs) and downs (Lady in the Water) as Shyamalan garnered a reputation for his unique vision and twisty surprises.

His latest effort certainly has his unique stamp on it. The Happening, like all of his work, is atmospheric and absorbing. Sadly, it’s also often silly and wrongheaded.

Mark Wahlberg (We Own the Night) leads the cast as Elliot Moore, a New York City science teacher whose understanding of natural phenomenon is put to the test by a bizarre event. On an otherwise placid afternoon, New Yorkers around Central Park begin committing mass suicide.

Thinking that terrorists have spread a virus or chemical that interferes with the instinct for self-preservation, frightened citizens flee the city. Elliot, his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) hop on a train heading west along with Elliot’s co-worker Julian (John Leguiamo from Land of the Dead) and Julian’s young daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez from Crash).

But the strange suicides seem to follow them. According to news reports, a large section of the Eastern Seaboard is affected. Julian heads to Princeton, New Jersey to find his wife, leaving Elliot and Alma in charge of his daughter’s welfare.

As the three head west with other refugees, they encounter more bizarre deaths. The reason for these tragic incidents remains nebulous, so people concentrate on fleeing to rural areas. The trio winds up at a remote cottage where an elderly hermit (Broadway star Betty Buckley) reluctantly offers them shelter.

Shyamalan saddles his cast with some screwy dialogue and his characters act in ways that seem utterly inconsistent given their circumstances. But mostly, the biggest problem with The Happening is that it is filled with unintentionally funny moments.

At one point, Elliot begins to believe that plants may be the cause of the disaster, giving off chemicals that change human behavior. He starts to have a friendly chat with a houseplant in order to convince it that humans mean them no harm. Whew.

Shyamalan may want to be the Rod Serling of the new century, but he’s got to learn to keep his flights of fancy rooted in a believable world. Regrettably, The Happening ain’t happenin’. (R) Rating: 2 (Posted 06/13/08)


Kung Fu Panda
Reviewed by Deborah Young

In the cinematic universe heroism springs from the most unlikely characters. From Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent to the kung fu challenged teen, Jason, of this year’s The Forbidden Kingdom, cinema’s saviors tend to be both powerful and puny (or so they seem).

Po, the title character of the Dreamworks animated film Kung Fu Panda is no different. He fantasizes about being a kung fu master, and he’s well versed in all things kung fu, but his lack of skills and big belly make his dream appear far-fetched.

Po’s dad (who happens to be a goose) wants Po to go into the family business of noodle making, and Po doesn’t have the heart to disappoint his father by revealing his true passion. But the curious Panda can’t resist sneaking off to see who gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior, the one fighter destined to save the village from an evil warrior.

Po (voiced by Jack Black) eventually gets his shot to train with his heroes, the Furious Five, and their master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Unfortunately, they don’t believe in him, and he doesn’t believe in himself.

It’s the standard martial arts plot but with cute animated animals. The cute factor works here, as does the delicate visual aesthetic that calls to mind the graphics from a children’s book and a strong cast.

Angelina Jolie voices Tigress, the one female member of the Furious Five. Her companions are Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross).

The most entertaining character here is one of the smallest, Shifu. This character adopts a method for teaching the Panda kung fu that is tailored to the panda’s obsession — food. It’s the animal version of Mr. Miyagi’s wax-on-wax-off schtick in The Karate Kid.

Kung Fu Panda is definitely martial arts light, but its short enough (88 minutes) to avoid wearing out its welcome, and it’s endearing. (PG) Rating: 3 (Posted 06/06/08)


You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

After the successes of The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, some may think that Judd Apatow could do no wrong.

Oh well, no one is perfect. The creative mind behind those hits runs into a brick wall with You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.

To be fair, his contribution to Adam Sandler’s new comedy is limited to a co-writing credit with Sandler and Robert Smigel. So, maybe he’s the one who came up with the funny stuff. Still, one can’t help but wonder if the concept of diminishing returns has come into play.

In this broad and bawdy farce, Sandler (Rein Over Me) plays Zohan, a crack Israeli counter-terrorist commando. As a member of the Mossad, he employs nearly super human abilities to thwart a host of bad guys.

But this Hebrew James Bond has tired of the constant fighting in his homeland. In fact, he wants nothing more than to quit his post and pursue his real dream…to become a hairdresser.

So, when in a fierce battle with his archenemy, a Palestinian super terrorist known as The Phantom (John Turturro from Transformers), Zohan fakes his own death. He then stows away on a jet bound for New York to establish his career in coiffure.

Once in the Big Apple, Zohan not only cuts the hair of his elderly clients, he also meets the needs of their aging libidos. As he attempts to conquer the world of style, angry Palestinians discover his identity and set out to destroy him.

Sandler has recruited many of his old pals for small roles, including Mariah Carey, Kevin James, John McEnroe and Saturday Night Live alums Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock and, most annoyingly, Rob Schneider.

The style of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan owes a lot to the absurd work of the Zucker Brothers, best known for the Airplane and Naked Gun movies. But director Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) hasn’t the finesse or the zippy comic timing that the Zuckers brought to their farces.

Plus, this lowbrow romp too often goes for the easy laugh and lings long after those laughs have dried up. It somehow managed to get a PG-13 rating, but the raunch level is fairly high. (Do we really need to see the backside of the elderly lady he’s shtupping?)

While You Don’t Mess with the Zohan has sporadic laughs, it’s mostly a mess. (PG-13) Rating: 2 (Posted 06/06/08)


Wedding Weekend
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

When a movie’s setup so closely resembles a classic, comparisons are inevitable. If Wedding Weekend weren’t so much like The Big Chill, it might have avoided the negative connection.

But writer/director Bruce Leddy forges into familiar territory with his story of a group of old friends who get together and spend a weekend at a vacation home in the Hamptons. Their foibles and anxieties are exposed as they prepare for a nuptial ceremony.

The cast is largely made up of unknowns, mostly from the New York stage, but there are a few familiar faces.

David Harbour (Awake) leads the cast as David, a thirtysomething who is frets about his receding hairline and its implications regarding his mortality. Fifteen years earlier, he was a member of a do-wop a cappella choir while in college. When one of the members plans to tie the knot, David and his old cronies camp out a few days before the ceremony.

David and his wife Dana (Rosemarie DeWitt from TV’s Mad Men) are trying to decide about whether or not to have kids. Other members of this yuppie entourage include the sexually dubious Will (Samrat Chakrabarti from She Hate Me), a Hollywood writer named Steven (David Alan Basche from United 93), a sexually deprived divorced lawyer named Richard (Reg Rogers from Igby Goes Down) and a stud the ladies lust for, Spooner (Chris Bowers from TV’s Rescue Me.)

Nearly forgotten in the mix is Greg the groom (Mark Feuerstein from In Her Shoes.) Perhaps the guys are too hung up on their various anxieties or they’re too distracted by the presence of a sexy young Swedish nanny, played by newcomer Camilla Thorsson.

The most recognizable member of the cast is played by Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon. As Trish, the wife of Wall Streeter Ted (Alexander Chaplin from The Basketball Diaries), she’s so annoying that her presence is akin to fingernails on the chalkboard.

Leddy, a director for the sketch show Mad TV, was a member of an a cappella group while in college, so this story is obviously very personal to him. While his screenplay doesn’t cover any new territory, it is heartfelt and often amusing.

The biggest problem her is a lack of consistency. Some moments work quite well, but others stick out as glaring mistakes. A scene where the boys wind up in jail after soliciting a prostitute is utterly phony.

While Wedding Weekend isn’t bad, you’d be better off opting for the DVD of The Big Chill. (No MPAA rating) Rating: 2.5 (Posted 06/06/08)


Russ Simmons can be contacted at rs8155@aol.com.
Deborah Young can be contacted at dkayyoung@hotmail.com.

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