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Movie Review: ‘Super Troopers 2’

A goofy sense of inconsequentiality is an underappreciated trait in comedies. There’s an abiding charm to movies so low in their stakes and so loose in their order that they feel as if at any moment they might fall apart. Films like “Caddyshack” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” are good examples, but outside of the loose absurdities of some of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s films (“Step Brothers,“ ‘'Anchorman”) most of today’s big-screen comedies are more conceptually tidy.

The comedy collective Broken Lizard, though, are pupils of the “Caddyshack” school. They are in it mainly to amuse themselves, and smoke a lot of weed in the process. It’s a laudable mission.

Fittingly timed to open in theaters on 4/20 is “Super Troopers 2,“ Broken Lizard’s sequel to their minor cult hit, the 2001 original that introduced the troupe, formed in the ‘90s at Colgate University, of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske. They went on to make a handful of other films and their director, Chandrasekhar, has helmed episodes of notable TV sitcoms (“Arrested Development,“ ‘'Community”), but “Super Troopers” remains their best-known (and easily their best) film, one propelled largely by its popularity on home video.

“Super Troopers” deserved the love that came its way. It’s about a station of prank-loving, drug-taking of Vermont highway patrolmen (all played by the Broken Lizard gang) who couldn’t take their jobs less seriously despite the efforts of their exasperated but lovable chief, played by the excellent Brian Cox — an 800-lb gorilla of an actor in a pleasantly featherweight comedy.

It was the movie’s fans that — through a surprisingly successful crowd-funding effort — pushed “Super Troopers 2” into existence, 17 years later. Such gaps have been death to comedies (“Zoolander 2” comes to mind) but nothing so dramatic befalls this still low-budget, still low-stakes sequel. The Broken Lizard guys remain amusing and likable. Their fondness for running gags hasn’t slowed down. And they can still get a lot of mileage out of guys with guns and mustaches in uniforms acting stupid.

But while “Super Troopers 2,“ also directed by Chandrasekhar and written by the troupe, may be just enough to satiate any remaining die-hards, it’s not likely to convert many new moviegoers to their syrup-swilling, “meow”-ing ways. The new film finds the group, having lost their police jobs after something ominous referred to as “the Fred Savage incident,“ recruited from their contracting and lumberjack gigs to patrol an area of Quebec that has been newly discovered, from an old map, to be rightfully Vermont’s. They are sent across the border, with Cox’s chief in tow, to take over policing the soon-to-be annexed territory. They are the face of the Canadians’ new, unwanted American overlords.

No one will say it’s the most original of plots, nor will anyone be much surprised at the avalanche of Canadian jokes to follow. Most are flat (including a disconcerting number of metric system gags) but some — like their pseudo-French impersonation of Mounties — are winning. Rob Lowe drops in to play a bordello-owning Canadian mayor, the Montreal-born Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Entourage”) co-stars as a French-speaking cultural attache and Lynda Carter returns as the Vermont governor.

In the time since “Super Troopers,“ the humor to be found in unprofessional police officers has perhaps waned. But “Super Troopers 2,“ retreating northward to the land of Canuck puns, has little interest in commenting on police brutality or much of anything political besides its underlying argument that a little criminality, but not too much, in life is good. They are anti-authoritarian authorities.

“Super Troopers 2,“ a Fox Searchlight release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “crude sexual content and language throughout, drug material and some graphic nudity.“ Running time: 100 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Movie Review: ‘I Feel Pretty

If you’ve ever walked into a store and were embarrassed to tell the salesperson your real size, or entered the gym locker room and wanted to hide, you’re part of the target audience for Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty.” Whatever age or gender you happen to be.

Self-esteem issues related to body image are, without doubt, a social epidemic — a painful and dangerous one, for many girls and young women. And there’s nothing controversial about that message, though judging by some of the heated online reaction to the trailer for “I Feel Pretty,” you’d think the film was proposing a new conspiracy theory about JFK’s assassination.

The real problem with “I Feel Pretty,” written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, is not in its message or conception, but in its ragtag execution. On the plus side, it’s often a pleasantly entertaining ride with the always appealing Schumer, and its heart is in the right place. It also features a truly terrific comic turn by Michelle Williams (drama, musicals, now comedy — is there anything she can’t do?) On the minus side, it muddles its message with an overstuffed script, choppy editing, and some unnecessarily over-the-top moments. Not to mention a sappy ending that actually comes close to contradicting its own premise.

Schumer is Renee Bennett, a young woman who looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees. What she sees, is, well, Amy Schumer — and that’s one of the things that has annoyed some people, who say that if Schumer epitomizes unattractiveness, what about the rest of us? Still, the actress is plenty believable as an average-looking, Spanx-wearing woman who aspires to look more like the Amazonian supermodels she runs into at SoulCycle, and at the cosmetics company where she works, relegated to an offsite basement in Chinatown.

What’s less believable is the overly negative reaction of some of those around her. A pretty saleswoman immediately approaches Renee in a chic clothing store and says, “You can probably find your size online.” A baby even breaks into tears at the sight of her. OK, that’s a little much.

In any case, one day at SoulCycle, Renee has an accident. She hits her head — three times! — falls unconscious, and wakes up thinking she’s beautiful.

And therein lies another objection from critics of the trailer: Does a woman have to be knocked unconscious to think she’s beautiful? OK, but the movie is using that as a vehicle to show how low self-esteem clouds our vision of ourselves. Also, Renee doesn’t see some other, glamorous face in the mirror; she sees herself. And it’s fun to see Renee suddenly confident enough to go for that plum promotion at Lily LeClair headquarters, working alongside snooty CEO Avery LeClair herself (Williams, with long blonde hair and a hysterically breathy voice, perhaps a throwback to her Marilyn Monroe days.)

She gets the job. She also gets Ethan, the cute guy in line at the dry cleaners (a wry and appealing Rory Scovel). On their first date, engineered by Renee of course, they wind up at a bikini contest filled with supermodel types where Renee fearlessly flaunts her stuff. Afraid for her at first, Ethan quickly admires how comfortable she is in her own skin, and falls for her. Their relationship alone is a nice, simple lesson in trusting one’s own attributes.

But this film doesn’t stick with simple. It finds multiple ways to say the same thing. Another apparently budding relationship, between Renee and Avery’s rich and coddled brother, Grant (Tom Hopper), is toyed with and then seemingly dropped, as if the movie was just getting too long (which it is.)

Inevitably, things go astray. Renee offends her two buddies, Jane (Busy Philipps) and Vivian (an underused Aidy Bryant), by getting too big for her britches, metaphorically. And then, just when she’s about to hit real success on the job, something happens to make her see herself in the old way, once again.

But, as they do in romantic comedies, things have a way of working out. At least, for Renee. As for us, we’re left with one of those let’s-wrap-it-all-up scenes that reaffirms Renee’s special qualities — so far, so good — and then spills over into unmitigated sap. “What I am is ME,” she declares. (You half expect her to break out into that empowerment anthem of the moment, “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.“) What, she asks, would it be like if nobody cared how they looked?

Well, it would be great. But it’s hard to ignore that Renee is, at that moment, hawking a cosmetics line. And so IS it all about acceptance and loving one’s true self? Or is it about finding the right concealer?

It’s complicated.

“I Feel Pretty,” an STX Entertainment release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for sexual content, some partial nudity, and language.” Running time: 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.


MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

A Non-Actor Wows Critics in The Rider

The Rider is an American cowboy tale from a relatively new Chinese director. It also features a cast of people who’ve never acted before. And it’s apparently awesome. Brady Jandreau, a real-life cowboy who suffered a brain injury in a 2016 fall, stars alongside his friends and family members in Chloé Zhao’s new feature, a lightly fictionalized telling of his struggle to get back on a horse. What critics are saying:

  • Describing it as an “achingly beautiful heartland elegy,“ Justin Chang says The Rider “comes as close to a spiritual experience as anything I’ve encountered in a movie theater this year.“ He credits its “gorgeous frontier lyricism” and star at the Los Angeles Times. “Is Jandreau acting, or merely being? I’d suggest a third option somewhere in between, in that mysterious realm where art resides,“ he writes.
  • “How many stirring moments does it take to make a great movie? Whatever the number, The Rider has more than enough,“ writes Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. His review describes an “ineffably beautiful drama” of intense bonds and “masculine pride,“ benefited by the “complexity and poignancy” Jandreau brings. “It’s a rare treat to be so affected by—and connected to—a movie hero of so few words, and such vivid ones,“ Morgenstern says.
  • At the Atlantic, David Sims calls The Rider “the best film I’ve seen so far in 2018.“ Far from “amateurish,“ it “feels like the announcement of a major artistic talent in Zhao,“ who “blends narrative with documentary seamlessly, giving the audience a glimpse into a way of life rarely seen on the big screen.“ Sims point outs “a remarkable training sequence that … Zhao allows to play out near-wordlessly.“
  • Noting Terrence Malick’s influence on Zhao’s work, Godrey Cheshire says “the apprentice here emerges as a master.“ The Rider is “the best American movie this critic has seen in the past year” and “the kind of rare work that seems to attain greatness through an almost alchemical fusion of nominal opposites,“ he writes at Zhao should be thanking her lucky stars that she met Jandreau, he adds. “Watching him is breathtaking.“

Rampage Pummels Past A Quiet Place to Box Office No.1

The Free Press WV

After a wobbly start, Dwayne Johnson muscled his way to a No. 1 opening for Rampage—but just barely. Close on its heels was the word-of-mouth sensation A Quiet Place in its second week in theaters, and not too far behind that was the Blumhouse horror Truth or Dare in a competitive weekend at the box office. Per the AP, Warner Bros. said Sunday that Rampage earned an estimated $34.5 million in its first weekend in North American theaters, and dominated internationally too with $114.1 million from 61 territories. Based on the classic arcade game, Rampage carried a sizable budget of at least $115 million. Although Rampage pulled in mixed reviews (it’s at 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences were more enthusiastic, giving it an A- CinemaScore.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel on Friday. But when I look at our global number of $148.6 million, there’s a lot to be proud of for Dwayne Johnson,“ said Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein. “Talk about a real closer, he knows how to bring it home.“ That Friday, of course, was Friday the 13th and audiences had the choice between two wide-release nail-biters to spend their entertainment dollars on — the buzzy thriller A Quiet Place that dominated the charts last weekend, and the new horror from the shop behind Get Out and Split, Truth or Dare. After its stunning debut, John Krasinski’s modestly-budgeted “A Quiet Place” fell only 35 percent in weekend two, adding $32.6 million to its domestic total, which is now just shy of $100 million for Paramount Pictures.

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