(On Cable TV, February 2017) Some will say that Garfield is terrible or misguided. I just think it’s dull. A bog-standard kid’s movie with animal characters, Garfield is noteworthy simply for its association with the comic strip, for the CGI lead character and for hearing Bill Murray’s disinterested dulcet tones as the lead cat. While Breckin Meyer is likable as Jon and it’s always nice to see Jennifer Love Hewitt, at some point in your life you have to make choices and consider whether what’s worth your time. Garfield certainly raises questions, most notably why-oh-why did they not use CGI for all the animal characters? Blending CGI Garfield with live-action Nermal and Odie completely misses the point of a movie adaptation of a comic strip, and even if the answer is likely to be” money”, then no-Garfield would have been preferable to a botched Garfield. Otherwise, there’s almost nothing here to interest adults—the script is painfully aimed at younger kids (simple plot, stock characters, dull dialogue), and there isn’t much in terms of cinematic sophistication. To be fair, nearly everybody (including Bill Murray) has had negative things to say about Garfield. The only grown-up suckers who see the film now are either parents or people who didn’t listen.
(On TV, October 2016) Trying to convince someone to see this tepid crime comedy about a mother/daughter pair of con artists quickly takes us to the tawdry: How about twentysomething Jennifer Love Hewitt playing up her cleavage? How about Sigourney Weaver in a lace bodysuit? No? Yet Heartbreakers’ most playful moments are spent playing the naughtiness of its premise (entrap the mark in a marriage, then create an affair and get half his wealth in a divorce settlement), so it’s not as if this is coming out of nowhere. What’s perhaps most disappointing, though, is how restrained the film has to be in order not to offend the masses, play against its stars’ persona and avoid an excessive rating. As such, Heartbreakers often feels like a big compromise, torn between sexiness and prudishness. If it felt free to cut loose with more nudity and explicit references, it could have been better; had it restrained itself and refocused, it could have been better as well. In its weird middle-ground, though, Heartbreakers often feels as if it doesn’t know what to do. Much of the plot points are predictable long in advance, with the conclusion dragging on much longer than it should (past the point most people will care, actually). Weaver’s extended fake-Russian shtick drags on for much longer than advisable, while Hewitt’s prickly romance subplot feels like the same plot point repeated five times. Bits and pieces of the film are amusing: Ray Liotta isn’t much more than adequate, but Gene Hackman cuts loose as a frankly despicable man who falls prey to the protagonists. While the film is a bit too good-natured to be unpleasant, it’s not much more than a mediocre comedy. You’ll smirk a few times, but Heartbreakers could and should have been much better.
(On TV, September 2015) From afar, there isn’t much here to distinguish Can’t Hardly Wait from endless teenage comedies: It’s all about a massive graduation party, with multiple subplots crashing into each other during the last big night of a group of high-school students. There have been many, many, many movies revolving around the same issues (take a look at Project X for one of the latest), and most of the subplots are just as intensely familiar. Still, watching Can’t Hardly Wait, it’s clear that the film succeeds at what it tries to do: despite the predictable plot points, the stereotypes, the sometimes-cheap jokes and the déjà-vu, there are a few chuckles and flashes of energy to the proceedings: Take a look at the drunken-nerd sequence, or the way a letter finds its way from the trashcan to its intended recipient, for two representative examples. For circa-2015 viewers, Can’t Hardly Wait has additionally gained a representative soundtrack of its time, and features (sometimes in very small roles) a dozen actors that have since made a career for themselves. The best performances in the film probably go to Ethan Embry, Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose and Charlie Korsmo, but the cast in general is pretty good at what it tries to do. Thanks to writer/directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s familiarity with the material they’re trying to emulate, the characters are often smarter than we think (Jennifer Love Hewitt has a spectacular speech that shreds a classic trope along the way) and there are odd twists of sub-plots (such as Jenna Elfman’s out-of-the-mists appearance) to keep things interesting. Even jaded viewers may find themselves enjoying Can’t Hardly Wait despite themselves.