Dinner for Schmucks (2010)
Ugh. I get the inspiration here — develop script full of goofy situations, get some of today’s bigger and more credible comedy stars to be in it, voila. When you cast Steve Carrell you remember that his breakout role was Brick Tamland in “Anchorman,” and surely a movie full of Brick Tamlandisms should be funny. I’m just not sure why it was so fitfully funny. Is it my dislike of mistaken identity plots, which are so forced here that they require two characters constantly misplacing their cell phones? Is it that we’re asked for too many reactions to Carrell’s character — sympathy, annoyance, empathy? Not a terrible movie, but not very good.
The Last Airbender (2010)
If it wasn’t for “Sex and the City 2” (and I refuse to consider even of those movies canon) this would be the most entertainingly-reviewed film of 2010. And sure, it’s a piece of shit. Our child stars have apparently been instructed to act exactly like anime characters, with wide eyes and excitable dialogue. (The female, uh, lead, is one of the worst child actors in history.) The special effects are ripped from a direct-to-video “Mortal Kombat” sequel. There are no stakes, no surprises. There are many funny lines that sound as stupid in context as they do out of it. “I am sorry. I forgot to tell you before. If you failed the test, as all others have, you would have been free to go.”
Please Give (2010)
The latest in Nicole Holofcener’s series of pleasing, plot-light, low-stakes portraits of upper middle class people with problems. It might be her best, though, because the plot device is at least sort of interesting — a well-off couple run a store that sells antiques purchased from the recently deceased, and they befriend (or co-exist) with the granddaughters of a neighbor they plan to ransack. (They’ve actually bought her apartment and plan to demolish it to expand their own.) Only Rebecca Hall’s sweet character (also named Rebecca) has any apparent morals; everyone else is an entertaining mess.
Four Lions (2010)
If you hear this description — “four bumbling Islamic terrorists plot an attack on the London marathon” — and don’t run screaming, you’ll like this. I loved it, smiling through a few awkward patches, wincing at the family drama (our hero Omar’s loving suburban family are excited about the prospect of their patriarch blowing himself up), and losing it at some of the funniest bits of the year. (The sequence in which two sharpshooters quibble over whether they’ve shot a man in a “bear” costume or a Chewbacca costume is evil and sublime.) I’m glad Chris Morris escaped from the sitcom slum to make this, and now I want him to go further.