The Grouch on the Couch Rants: Holmes and Watson

BY THE GROUCH ON THE COUCH

I hate this movie too much to give it a stinger.

SUMMARY

Sherlock Holmes (Will “What the hell happened” Ferrell) and John Watson (John C. “Seriously, you guys are usually funny” Reilly) try to protect the queen from being murdered by James Moriarity (Ralph “God, I hope you got this in cash up front” Fiennes). Everything else that would potentially be plot is irrelevant crap.

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Shame on you.

END SUMMARY

Because of the bad reviews, I waited until I didn’t have to pay for this movie. I should have seen it in theaters so I would have actual damages for my impending tort claim against this film. This took up like 90 minutes of my life. 90 minutes I could have spent doing anything else. I could have watched Plan 9 From Outer Space, because at least that’s the FUN kind of bad. This film somehow was never even close to amusing.

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Oh wow, a selfie joke. This is groundbreaking.

I have never seen a movie this aggressively unfunny. Even the parts of this movie that seem like they SHOULD be funny, particularly given the relatively high-level comedians who are found in the cast, somehow become irritating and flat. Part of it is that the film never feels like it’s surprising the audience. The more obvious the joke, the more likely it’s going to be what’s said next, so why do we even need them to say it? There’s an episode of South Park where Stan starts to see that everything around him is actually crap, envisioning bad films as filled with talking and dancing turds. This film was taken from that episode, then given brain damage from a series of sledgehammer blows to the head, then set on fire by crackheads. This movie makes me almost want to apologize to Uwe Boll for the things I’ve said about him. Almost.

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The marketing is them doing this. THIS WAS WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO GET PEOPLE TO SEE THIS FILM.

It’s tough to really nail down everything that doesn’t work here, but if I had to say why I particularly hate it, it’s that nobody in the film appears to be trying. Ferrell and Reilly don’t appear to be invested in any part of this, going through the motions almost robotically without any of their added flair. In 2015, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig appeared in a movie for Lifetime called A Deadly Adoption in which they both play actual Lifetime characters with complete sincerity, the “joke” being that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig both played straight characters in a Lifetime film. A lot of critics agreed that wasn’t really funny. I actually thought it was kind of amusing, because at least it was original to spend all the time and effort to create a comedy set-up and then play it straight. I would respect this movie it was going for something like that. It wouldn’t be fun, sure, but it would at least have shown that they were trying.

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Give this a shot if you’re drunk.

What’s extremely weird about the movie is that it can never decide what any of the characters are. It’s like they had 3 different drafts of the movie which each had completely different interpretations of Holmes and Watson and they decided to use all of them. Holmes is portrayed simultaneously as a legitimate genius, a complete idiot, and also an insane person. This isn’t like in Without a Clue or They Might Be Giants where the character is supposed to be completely separate from the actual fictional Sherlock Holmes, thus explaining why they’re not actually good detectives. This movie features Sherlock being honored as one of the most superior minds in the world, something that just doesn’t sync with watching him constantly fumbling around doing slapstick. Watson, who at least can be characterized as a bumbling sidekick, is therefore forced to drop down in intelligence to the point of being a complete fool, despite still ALSO being a recognized figure for his work with Holmes. I think this is why this particular strain of comedic take on Holmes doesn’t quite work. You can’t have both of them be simultaneously competent and incompetent. That’s not to say that films haven’t pulled that off, in fact The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts does it with a pair of detectives, but it only works there because the entire world of the movie is absurd. This film can never decide how serious it is supposed to be and that makes for a lousy comedy.

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They made this movie better 40 years ago.

The supporting characters suffer from similar problems, such as Holmes’s and Watson’s love interests Dr. Hart and the Feral Millie (Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus), who are completely absurd except when they aren’t. Similar things happen with the villain *SPOILERS BUT F*CK THIS MOVIE*, Mrs. Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), who is revealed to be the mastermind of a brilliant scheme that is also pointlessly complicated and dumb. Seriously, these are all good people, and none of them could get a chuckle out of me. 

I will say that one thing did make me laugh: There’s a scene on the Titanic with Billy Zane, and that’s a fun cameo. That’s about it.

Avoid this movie like the plague. I cannot believe the same person that wrote Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder wrote this. Someone should genuinely check on Etan Cohen to make sure he’s okay. I know all of these people will do better in the future, but this… this was rough. That’s about all I can say.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Little Hours: A Modern Comedy About Medieval Nuns

A packed cast of comedians star in this film about life in a Fourteenth Century convent.

SUMMARY

It’s 1347 in Italy and a convent of nuns is being led by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly). The nuns, particularly the extremely angry Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), drive off the gardener and caretaker Lurco (Paul Weitz), forcing Father Tommasso to look for another one. At the same time, a servant named Massetto (Dave Franco) is kicked out of his position and ordered arrested by his master, Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman) for sleeping with his wife Francesca (Lauren Weedman). Massetto flees and runs into Tommasso, who has gotten drunk and lost the embroideries he was supposed to sell to fund the convent. Tommasso agrees to hide Massetto at the convent in exchange for being a gardener and pretending to be a deaf-mute.

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Wanna know what they’re doing? Nun-ya business. I don’t regret this joke.

Despite not being able to talk, Tommasso is soon befriended by Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie) who grows infatuated with him. One night, Sister Fernanda’s friend Marta (Jemima Kirke) appears and all of the nuns, including Alessandra, Fernanda, Sister Ginevra (Kate Micucci), and Mother Marea (Molly Shannon) get drunk while they’re being told that sex is amazing. Fernanda takes a drunken Ginevra back to her room for sex while Alessandra and Massetto start to get closer.

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Fernanda doesn’t quite get along with him. Or anyone.

At one point, Fernanda kidnaps Massetto and she and Marta have sex with him, seemingly confirming him as a viable candidate for something. Ginevra is upset by this, having fallen for Fernanda. Massetto and Alessandra begin getting physical, but get interrupted by one of the elders coming into the room. Soon, Fernanda again kidnaps Massetto, this time taking him to a coven of witches in the woods who prepare to sacrifice him for a fertility ritual. They’re stopped by Ginevra, who has consumed a bunch of drugs and shows up high, but Massetto reveals that he’s not a deaf-mute while escaping. The group is caught returning to the convent by the visiting Bishop Bartolomeo (Fred Armisen), who uncovers all of the secrets, including that Ginevra is Jewish and that Tommasso and Marea are having sex.

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She’s not sure he’s getting her point. I do kind of apologize for this joke.

Massetto is sent back to Lord Bruno, but is rescued by Alessandra and the other nuns. They all escape together, passing Tommasso and Marea who have likewise fled, and everyone lives happily ever after, except Bruno’s wife who is probably dead.

END SUMMARY

This movie is the most bizarre concoction I’ve seen in a while. It’s an adaptation of one of the stories from the Decameron, specifically the first story of Day 3, albeit a very loose adaptation. In the original, Massetto is a man pretending to be a mute gardener for the purpose of, successfully, seducing the nuns. It turns out that they actually choose to take advantage of him, believing that a mute won’t ever tell anyone. Unfortunately, he underestimates their desires, resulting in him having to beg for help from sheer exhaustion. He ends up begging mercy from the Abbess, who ends up keeping him at the abbey as a steward so that he can continue to service the nuns until he’s very old. That particular story, told by Filostrato within the text, would likely have been a very bawdy comedy by the standards of 1353. My favorite line is: “Madam, I have heard say that one cock sufficeth unto half a score hens, but that half a score men can ill or hardly satisfy one woman; whereas needs must I serve nine, and to this I can no wise endure; nay, for that which I have done up to now, I am come to such a pass that I can do neither little nor much.” While that’s not exactly how the film plays out, you can definitely see the influence.

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Other stories might also be derived from this.

A lot of the quality in the film is the dialogue, most of which sounds like contemporary speech adapted into subject matter fit for the 1300s. It helps that everyone delivering the lines are all comic geniuses, but Jeff Baena, the writer/director/husband of Aubrey Plaza also does a good job of crafting anachronistic situations that are just farcical enough to work. Granted, a lot of the secret to the movie is that it is just 90 minutes. Any longer and the premise would completely have run out.

Every performance is great, but I do have to say that Fred Armisen’s inquisition scenes basically had me floored with his delivery and quips. If you don’t get into the movie, I’d recommend going ahead and fast-forwarding to that sequence just to enjoy 5 minutes of sheer madness.

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Overall, I liked this movie. Not loved, but liked for sure. What shocks me is that I hadn’t heard about it before now. Usually when something has a cast this good and I don’t hear about it, I have to assume that it was just that bad, but this actually got decent reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the audience score isn’t great, but for a film like this that’s not surprising. It’s not going to be everyone’s taste, but if you like the people in it, you’ll probably enjoy it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 – Happy Doesn’t Mean Fulfilled, Fulfilled Means Happy (Spoiler-Free)

Wreck-It Ralph’s sequel decides to show us that sometimes one person’s happily-ever-after is another person’s doldrums.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s been six years since Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) took down King Candy (Alan “I love this man” Tudyk) and returned Vanellope to being the princess of the game Sugar Rush. The pair are now best friends, hanging out at Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade together every night. Ralph is happy with his life, but Vanellope is getting bored of the limited tracks available in her racing game. Ralph attempts to make a new one, but ends up breaking the game. The pair head to the internet to try and find a new part before the game gets unplugged. Along the way, they run into a tough female racer named Shank (Gal Gadot) from the internet game Slaughter Race, the algorithm from a video streaming site named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson), a search engine named KnowsMore (Alan “I really love this man” Tudyk), and every single Disney princess.

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Also they have Jason Mantzoukas and Baby Groot at one point and I love it.

END SUMMARY

Wreck-It Ralph had several themes, but the focus of Ralph’s and Vanellope’s arcs were on how they were being defined by others. Ralph was constantly looked down upon, because he IS the villain of his game, but he was still a nice guy who just wanted people to like him. Vanellope is looked down upon because she is regarded as a “glitch.” Neither of them had any choice in these traits, but they both are burdened with the consequences of them. Throughout the movie, Ralph manages to come to terms with his situation by realizing that it doesn’t matter if all of the other characters in his game think of him as a hero, because he’s a hero to Vanellope and knows he’s doing the right thing. Vanellope, similarly, refuses to be regarded just as a glitch and, in fact, manages to turn her glitching into a superpower. At the end of the film, both of them now have moved beyond caring what anyone else thinks and have defined themselves both on their own terms and also in the terms of their friendship: Ralph’s the Hero, Vanellope’s the Racer.

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Here’s a picture of a candy car rather than Jean-Paul Sartre.

Their major arcs in the first film arise from existential crises where they are both trying to avoid being forced to adopt the values that society has placed upon them, a concept that Sartre referred to as “Bad Faith.” Ralph ends up mostly avoiding acting in bad faith because at the end of the movie, he doesn’t need the medal that he was seeking the whole film, he just needs to act like the hero he knew he could be. He even says one of the ultimate existential lines “there is no one I’d rather be than me.” He is now living authentically, in existential terms, which leads him to a place where he feels truly happy with the role he now plays of his own volition.

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Did the reading already for Firefly.

That’s where this movie picks up the ball and runs with it in a pretty solid way. Ralph is happy at this point. He’s never had friends or been a hero, so having Vanellope as a friend and being her hero has made him satisfied. However, Vanellope is a racer. She lives for the challenge and now she doesn’t have it anymore, because she’s just too much better than any of the other racers. The core conflict of the movie arises from the fact that she and Ralph care about each other, but she no longer is happy just spending time with him. She needs fulfillment. When her game is in danger of being unplugged, she still agrees with Ralph’s plans to try and save it, but she knows that deep down she really doesn’t want to return to it. The rest of her arc in the movie is trying to find fulfillment in her life. Ralph’s arc, in response, is to learn how to deal with her leaving. Having never had a friend before, he is afraid of being alone again. Rather than just authenticity, she’s seeking self-actualization and he’s seeking self-determination. It’s a great way to progress their story after the end of the last film.

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The evolution of this medal alone is great.

But, boring thematic stuff aside, this movie does for the internet what Inside Out did for the human brain: Comes up with a clever way to represent the structure of it that’s intuitive and not particularly inaccurate. It has an insane number of references and sight gags, particularly if you were on the internet in the early days of AOL through now. The movie addresses social media, e-commerce, viral marketing, and even internet comment threads (though the lack of racial slurs makes it unrealistic).

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The Dark Web contains less sex trafficking and arms sales than in real life.

However, Disney really saved up the big shot for when it’s representing OhMyDisney where they manage to cram in more references, callbacks, in-jokes, and just flat-out nostalgia bombs in about 5 minutes than I would have thought possible. Then, they bring in the princesses. Yes, every Disney princess is in this movie, and they’re all amazing.  Almost all of them are portrayed by their original voice actresses. They even get a scene in which they work together to subvert the damsel-in-distress trope. It’s contrived, to be sure, but watching all of them use all of their skills in tandem and play off of each other ends up making it less corny and more awesome.

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Also, Merida has the best line in many movies. 

Overall, this is a great sequel, a great movie, has a lot of solid gags, and a message that actually is pretty unique for the genre. Oh, and it has the best mid-credits and after-credits meta-gags I’ve ever seen. Do not leave.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.