Tom Shadyac’s ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE is obnoxious. It’s joyfully bothersome and that’s a big part of its crude charm, with Jim Carrey turning in a peculiar performance as repellent as it is animated. In some sense, this 1994 comedy maybe ought to be strictly for a young audience. But that’s offensive to children and young audiences, who are (and were) just as likely to find these unwell antics off-putting. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, then, exists in a kind of comedic Gehenna.
Carrey is the title character and he is indeed a pet detective. He is pressed into the biggest case of his career when the Miami Dolphins’ mascot is hijacked. Ventura teams with the publicist (Courtney Cox) of the football club to track down the actual dolphin. This leads to a series of adventures and comedic situations, like when Ventura invades a billionaire’s posh party or when he narrows the lens on a football rivalry that may have serious implications for one Dan Marino.
Nothing about ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE is taken the least bit seriously, which can be maddening for those looking for lucidity. This is a self-destructive mainstream comedy. It plays from a character with no ability to maintain propriety, chomping on extraneous matters like plot and continuity with an open mouth. It burps, farts and talks with its own ass. It moves sideways, a slick and stupid pompadour pointed scathingly at polite society. It’s hard to imagine such a thing being popular these days.
Calling Carrey’s character annoying goes without saying. There’s no indication that the comic actor isn’t trying to be desperately exasperating, so the mission is accomplished with happy vigour. One of the only (slightly) comparable characters in modern cinema seems to be Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, a character also immersed in the energetic problems of the 1990s. In ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, Carrey is the superhero in the Aloha shirt, a boot up his own talking ass. A brassy, hideous joke at everyone’s expense.
By his standards, Michael Bay’s BAD BOYS is rather quaint. It’s a typical 1990s-era actioner, a buddy comedy built on two solid stars and bolstered with the slippery movement, coiling overheads and obnoxious theatrics that would make the director infamous through subsequent entries. It’s also an amusing trifle, a mostly innocuous prod at masculinity and “cop stuff” that runs the gamut of chases, explosions and misunderstandings.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star as Miami cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, respectively. They’re tasked with tracking down whoever pinched a pile of drugs from the police vault. IA believes it’s an inside job and the plot establishes the need to seek out informants and other shady characters. Meanwhile, the bad guys bust up a party and kill one such informant. This leads the informant’s pal Julie Mott (Téa Leoni) to require police protection, which in turn leads to one of those misunderstandings.
BAD BOYS is the product of an enthusiastic sense of action and that works for its boyish target audience. There’s plenty of good laughs for those in the mood, but further examination reveals that this thing really is a muddle of clichés and riffs. Like most Bay outings, there’s nothing intricate about the plot or the characters. Things balance on a shoestring of foreseeable reactions, like how there’s some confusion from Marcus that Mike is getting it on with his wife (Theresa Randle) or how the captain (Joe Pantoliano) yells a lot and smokes a cigar when he shoots hoops.
The lensing by Howard Atherton is sun-kissed and saturated in every ounce of filter that can be mustered, which gives things a cinematic feel and allows Bay confidence. There neat angles, like little curls down a staircase or overheads that show just how packed the aptly-named Club Hell is. The finale is likewise confidently shot, with a big X marking the spot for action as though things need to be more on the nose. This cements BAD BOYS as exactly what it is: a big, raucous, entertaining brick of a movie.
Directed by TOY STORY 3’s Lee Unkrich, COCO is a stunning vision of beauty and life. This 2017 Pixar picture is the stuff of cinematic wonder, with a screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich. It weaves a timely and timeless story that explores the Mexican Día de Muertos and notions of memory, family and life. It is an expressive and sometimes dark movie, with confident humour and warm voice performances.
The story focuses on 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), an aspiring musician living with his shoemaking family in Santa Cecilia. His grandmother (Renée Victor) is upholding a familial ban on music and prohibits Miguel from playing his guitar. The boy is undaunted and wants to be like the famed Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a captivating idol revered the world over notwithstanding his untimely death. Miguel’s journey to understand his family and his love of music reveals the truth about his hero and takes him all the way to the Land of the Dead itself.
COCO thrives with gorgeous music and colour, celebrating the worlds of the living and dead. The early images of Miguel’s home are profuse with flavour, with Pixar’s animation team paying careful attention to the slightest of details. There is always food and movement. With the Day of the Dead approaching, there is also festivity and tradition. Miguel’s family is, like so many fabled clans, reverent of traditions and yet in need of revelation.
At the heart of COCO is what could be termed a misinterpretation of events. The grudge against song is unspoken in a broken heart, in a mislaid life. Gael García Bernal gracefully draws Héctor as the hinge of this fallacy and his affection for Miguel leaps for joy. The title character, a woman (Ana Ofelia Murguía) slipping away, is characteristic of how the living maintain a grasp on the lost and how the lost are left with a place in the here and now so long as they are remembered. And in the face of doubt, sorrow and despair, COCO’s message is beautifully important.
Let’s get this out of the way: FIST FIGHT is way better than it has any business being. In an age where many major studio comedies push past the two-hour mark and are embellished with torrents of riffing and redundant side characters, this Richie Keen movie gets to the point. It has structure. It tells a story. It knows what it’s doing and it knows why it’s doing it. There are moments of high-flight silliness and much of the humour is wildly “inappropriate,” but it’s also very funny. Often stunningly so.
It’s the last day of the school year at a chaotic and brutally underfunded public school and that means the students are out of control. Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is a dupe of an English teacher and he’s trying to endure it, but he’s worried about his job. Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) is the history teacher and he’s also on the chopping block, but his approach differs. He doesn’t mind cracking heads if it gets the students to learn. The educators clash after a series of events and Strickland challenges Campbell to a good old-fashioned rumble. Campbell spends the day trying to get out of it, while Strickland’s motives are deeper than you might think.
A certain degree of FIST FIGHT deals in catharsis. Watching Campbell’s journey from softy to soldier is interesting because it doesn’t take the anticipated route. He discerns that his approach to learning – and indeed to life – isn’t working. Staying out of the fray isn’t always the best solution to life’s snags and a little confrontation can have value. Strickland, on the other hand, learns that he requires moderation. But his motives are pure and that’s what’s unique about FIST FIGHT. His actions demarcate a bigger problem in the education system, with topics as comprehensive as funding and behaviour providing context.
You could enumerate all the “problematic” humour in FIST FIGHT, but what’s the use? There are coarse jokes and some might find it obnoxious to see teachers smacking students around. But in the grand scheme of things, the bedlam works. And it’s damn funny when Jillian Bell’s character lets her id do the talking. Tracy Morgan, Dean Norris and Christina Hendricks do well in support roles, while Alexa Nisenson plays Campbell’s daughter and tackles a Big Sean song with amusing results. Sure, the comedy is broad. Sure, the jokes can be cheap and even “mean.” But there’s more to this pithy comedy than the sum of its parts. And today, that’s kind of a treat.