Tag: ken marino

Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
★★ / ★★★★

It is the last day of Camp Firewood which means that the camp director, Beth (Janeane Garofalo), and her camp counselors must endure one more day of trying to overcome their feelings for one another. Geeky Coop (Michael Showalter) is finally noticed by salacious Katie (Marguerite Moreau). The only problem is she’s still seeing scatter-brained Andy (Paul Rudd), currently eyeing blonde Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) like a hawk.

Meanwhile, Victor (Ken Marino), known as the stallion of the bunch, looks forward to having sex with sexually unrestrained Abby (Marisa Ryan). Incidentally, he is forced by Beth to take some of the kids to go water rafting, which is a couple of hours away from camp. Beth, too, is attracted to someone, an astrophysicist named Henry (David Hyde Pierce) who later volunteers to entertain the “indoor kids” to impress her.

Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain, “Wet Hot American Summer” is riotously funny when the jokes work but extremely frustrating and annoying when they do not. The characters are supposed to be stereotypes of camp counselors in the movies of the ‘80s so the comedy must be judged on how and if they are used wisely in order to pull off a biting satire. Like reaching into a bag marbles, some are shiny and some are quite dull.

Beth is wonderful as a leader who is required to be everywhere at once. Despite her share of awkward quirks, I believed that she is functional enough to successfully manage the place. But the characters who have only sex on the brain are consistently hit-and-miss.

For instance, the dizzying dance between Coop and Katie goes absolutely nowhere. Every time they share the same frame, I wanted to see more of Andy’s amusing negligence whenever he is around other women. One of the more entertaining scenes involves a kid almost drowning in the lake because Andy is too busy shoving his tongue down a girl’s throat. Coop and Katie do have one funny scene, however, which involves trading clothes while sitting in a barn. The cheesiness of the whole thing is supposed to make us groan because movies from the past try to convince us that wearing someone’s piece of clothing is romantic. It is not romantic when the other person has lice or crabs.

I wished that McKinley (Michael Ian Black) and Ben (Bradley Cooper), gay lovers, had more scenes together. I felt like a lot of the jokes that could have stemmed from the homosexual relationship are held back out of political correctness. The picture does not need to be sensitive especially when it is supposed to be a satire. On the contrary, it must be merciless. I had a similar reaction with the way the attraction between the crafts teacher (Molly Shannon) and one of her students (Gideon Jacobs) is handled

To my surprise, the student-teacher attraction ends up being my favorite “relationship” in the film. It is so wrong yet so hilarious. It is both a shame and a missed opportunity that the screenplay chooses to shy away from polemical topics in order to make room for comedy that is easier to digest.

“Wet Hot American Summer,” directed by David Wain, needs to recognize its strengths and play upon them. Extraneous scenes that are downright stupid and unfunny like characters running from one room to another, screaming, and knocking down breakable objects on purpose need to be excised. In scenes like that, what exactly is being satirized—the writers running out of ideas?


Wanderlust (2012)
★ / ★★★★

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) thought it was time for them, as a committed couple, to buy their own place in New York City instead of continuing to rent an apartment. After speaking with a consultant, they decided to buy a studio apartment. But when George was fired out of the blue and Linda’s depressing documentary about penguins with cancer was not picked up by HBO, the couple decided to stay with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino), in Atlanta, Georgia until they got back on their feet. However, an overnight stay in Elysium Bed and Breakfast, managed by a free-spirited commune, made them consider leading an alternative lifestyle. Written by David Wain and Ken Marino, “Wanderlust” busted out of the cage promisingly due to its underhanded critique of materialism that plagues most of our lives. When George and Linda argued, I bought them as a couple because I immediately got the impression that they loved each other not only for their similarities but also, and perhaps more importantly, their differences. The genuine comedy and drama that propelled our protagonists forward were immediately sucked away when they arrived in the communal settlement. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea for the screenplay to introduce the colorful characters and make us laugh to remember each of them, I found that the writing consistently relied on surface qualities to get an emotion–any emotion because pretty much everything that transpired in and around the bed and breakfast was so deathly dull–from us. The nudity and dirty talk, effective when used sparingly paired with great timing, became very predictable and embarrassing. The filmmakers turned so desperate to the point where it actually featured a stampede of naked sagging bodies–in slow motion. It wasn’t funny. In fact, I found it to be quite mean-spirited and cynical. I got the impression that it wanted to disgust us and hopefully mistake that response for amusement. Also, there was a subplot involving a missing deed and businessmen wanting to kick out the community in order to build a casino. A lot of it was noise, annoying chatter that didn’t amount nor lead to anything profound or, in the very least, entertaining. After one flat delivery after another, an actor would overact suddenly and I mentally begged them to stop talking. The worst was performed by Rudd as George attempted to encourage himself in front of a mirror to have sex with another woman (Malin Akerman). And just when I thought the humiliation was over, it flooded onto the next scene until it became as annoying as hearing an empty barrel beating beaten by a child. The most interesting and most overlooked character was Marissa (Michaela Watkins), Rick’s wife, so miserable in being a wife and mother that she’d rather drown herself in booze than to deal with her situation. She was surrounded by so many expensive and gorgeous things but she was far from happy. Unlike most of the one-dimensional characters in the commune, Marissa was amusing without even trying. But there was a sadness in her, too. Notice that no one dared to take her seriously even when she hinted about her misery at home. Why worry about her state of mind when she seemed to have it all, right? “Wanderlust,” directed by David Wain, was a bore almost every step of the way because it didn’t bother to develop the supporting characters who were meant to help George and Linda, in an indirect way, to appreciate what they already had. It was a drag to sit through.


Diggers (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

Set in the 1970s, “Diggers” was about four friends (Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Ron Eldard, Josh Hamilton) who dug clams for a living whose lives began to unfold after Hunt’s (Rudd) father passed away. I saw great potential in this picture because all four men were so interesting to watch, but I felt like it came up too short in terms of really exploring their psychologies: the lead character and his father’s death, a friend having way too many kids, another friend’s blossoming relationship with the main character’s sister (Maura Tierney), and another who constantly experimented with drugs. As different as their stories and personalities were, I found it interesting that none of them was not really present or aware with how they were living their lives. That common theme had an innate sadness to it because all of them felt trapped–trapped in where they lived, in their occupations and in their minds. I felt like the movie really captured the 1970s with its introspective style of storytelling and soundtrack. Although I did enjoy the comedic scenes dispersed throughout, I wished the movie was more focused and had a longer running time because I felt like we saw the characters only at the surface. I wanted to see more tender moments between the lead character and his sister, the bond that the four friends had and the lost connection between the father and the son. I loved the metaphor involving photography and digging for clams and how the latter related to the emptiness of their lives. Rudd’s more serious roles are less known in his repertoire (“The Shape of Things” was one of his best) which is unfortunate because I feel like he has the talent to bring real gravity to his characters. In here, he portrayed an emotionally wounded person so well that I forgot that I was watching an actor. The silent moments with just him and his camera had a certain naturalistic feel to them; those were the moments when the picture was really at the top of its game. Written by Ken Marino and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, “Diggers” would have been a stronger film with a bit more alterations in the script in terms of character development. In parts, the movie was good but as a whole it just didn’t quite hold up for me. Nevertheless, I did admire the fact that the movie ended in such a way that it left me wanting more. It did a great job in drawing the line between having a clean-cut ending and having closure.