Unless you are watching an experimental film that is avoiding traditional narrative, all films have a storyline. We drop in on the lives of a few people, get to know their problems, see them fail or succeed to find a resolution, and leave with hopefully a bit more wisdom than we arrived with.
I see myself in a conversation with someone who may share my dislike of Drinking Buddies and call the film plotless. They aren't far off, but we come in just as one woman is having a good go at life, watch as problems arise from actions both within and without her direct input, and view the conclusion with the knowledge gained from watching these people. Beginning. Middle. End. There's a plot.
The more important distinction is whether Drinking Buddies finds a way to make its low-key problems interesting in either a visual way or through its dialogue. Yes, it does manage to milk some success out of the previously hidden charms of Olivia Wilde and the never-disappointing Anna Kendrick. But throughout its run-time Drinking Buddies does not make its protagonists compelling, or even inspire an interest to keep watching that goes beyond my philosophy of not reviewing a film I haven't finished. I did, and charm alone does not make a good experience out of a drunken conversation that is better left forgotten a day later.
It's been difficult to avoid ongoing news both about Paul Walker's death and the outpouring of sadness that continues. I've avoided talking about it for a longer piece this Sunday, but I couldn't ignore this sweet tribute song written by RZA and performed by Will Wells. It's rough, but very touching. Give it a listen.
Tomorrow I'll be reviewing Drinking Buddies.
There is every reason to think that The Smurfs 2 would do nothing to change the aspects of the first that made it such a non-threatening smash. Neil Patrick Harris was summoned to put some of his modern pizazz on a cookie-cutter fairy tale with some of the most broad characters this side of the Seven Dwarves. It took few chances, hooked in a few other celebrities to pad out the rest of the poster, and coasted its way to a few hundred million dollars.
The most pleasant surprise about this sequel, which was guaranteed the moment the gross passed the budget of the first, is that it tries to double-down on what gave the first film its intermittent charm. I admire that director Raja Gosnell, aided once again by an immense writing team, didn't filter the screen through more layers of product placement and sporadic psychosexual imagery. Some is expected when there's one woman in a village populated entirely by men, but even I had trouble grounding the scene where a Smurf flirts with the Green M&M only to land in a blue explosion in pleasure.
If the rest of The Smurfs 2 carried on like the first thirty minutes this would have been an unqualified like. But softening the problems of the first film into the second does not remove them entirely. This is still a straightforward tale, told with occasional wit, and too many pop montages to antics that would be wacky if they didn't feel so routine.
Other than the excuse to load up on pumpkin and fruit-of-the-moment pie, I'm not big on Thanksgiving. But it does give me the excuse to watch Planes, Tranes and Automobiles - the finest work of the careers of John Candy, Steve Martin, and John Hughes. When that big ol' lug of Candy is warmly welcomed in from the cold at the end it is nearly impossible for me to keep a dry eye. It's also as unlikely that I won't bust out laughing once every minute or two.
So, in a fine bit of trivia, you can see just how much their trip would cost at today's prices. It's a fun little read because the only thing that's dated about the film are the use of payphones and the costs of some of the transportation. While I imagine the rental car company might fight a bit more on the melted slab returned to them, it's interesting to see just how much the story is made possible because both Martin and Candy's characters are people of relative means.
Tomorrow I'll have a review of The Smurfs 2 up, a film that almost brings to life a prediction I made in my review of the first.