IS IT REAL OR IS IT MEMOREX: Movie Reviews of Brigsby Bear and Marjorie Prime by Howard Casner

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Brigsby Bear is basically the same story as Room (but not The Room), but though a comedy, is cleverer, deeper, better written, more original and more profound than the earlier critically acclaimed drama, which for my taste had a strong first half and then became a bit too predictable and formulaic in the second.

The film, a first feature for director Dave McCary and writers Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney (Mooney also plays the lead role), is about James Pope, now 29, but who was abducted by a couple, April and Ted Mitchum, when he was five. Since then he has been kept in an underground bunker with his faux parents telling him he can’t go outside because the world out there is a apocalyptic wasteland and leaving the bunker means certain death. Read the rest of this entry »

Movie Review of IN A WORLD… by Howard Casner

In a World… is a perfectly pleasant little movie.  It’s also more than a bit of a frumpy mess.


Written and directed and starring Lake Bell (known mainly for her comedic work on such shows as Children’s Hospital), In A World…, at it’s core, is the story of a young female voiceover artist who wants to break through the glass ceiling of the male dominated movie trailer world and the effect that goal has on her strained relationship with her father when the two end up in competition against each other for a prestigious gig—the chance to be the one to bring back the iconic “in a world where…” opening to sneak previews.


The basis of the movie is sound.  And there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been made into something.  But in the end, for me it is a movie that feels as if its main positive is that it just got made at all.  It feels unambitious and willing to settle, a bit too slackerly for my taste, especially when you imagine what it could have been.  It’s one of those films that feels as if it did as little as possible just to get that C grade.


The whole thing gets off to a shaky start with Bell playing Carol, one of those annoying characters who’s exasperated and totally perplexed because the world doesn’t revolve around her and she’s not the center of attention.  As the movie goes on, her personality becomes more infectious and one does eventually warm to her (Bell may come across as underwhelming in the writing/directing department, but she works her tail off in the acting arena).


But the movie as a whole never quite comes together.  Half of it deals with Carol and the voiceover competition, while the other half, for some reason, deals with the marital difficulties of Carol’s sister and brother-in-law (the excellent Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry).  But this plot turn is so irrelevant, all it really does is take precious time away from the core of the drama.  The result is a subplot that feels as if it’s only included because Bell, as a writer, couldn’t quite figure out how to fully dramatize the father/daughter voiceover conflict, and so had to have some sort of filler to make sure the movie came out to a commercial length, leaving the main through line sketched in and woefully underwritten.


What also doesn’t help is that the sister/brother-in-law conflict is tighter, more focused and better written than the rest of the movie with the most fully developed characters.  The remainder of the roles, except for Bell, never rise above the level of a cartoon, including Fred Melamed, as the father, and the sly Ken Marino, as douchebaggy Gustav, Bell’s only other rival for the prized gig.  What also, also doesn’t help is that this subplot is the most unoriginal part of the proceedings.


I really would have loved a fully realize comedic dramatization of this fight to be crowned king, or queen, of voiceover movie trailer artists.  But instead, and I hate to say it, there’s something off balance and clumsy about the whole movie.  Bell is very sincere and her personality carries the movie along for much of it, but in the end, the film just made me think of that old sit-com routine where the wife keeps begging her husband to let her call in a repairman to fix something, but the husband insists on doing it himself, with the result that he only makes things worse until one wishes that the repairman had been called in in the first place.


Toward the end there’s a scene that perhaps encapsulates much of the issues I had with the movie overall.  In it, Geena Davis, as a producer, cruelly puts Carol in her place over the issue as to whether she really was the best person for the voiceover gig.  It’s odd because there’s absolutely no reason shown for the producer to be so arbitrarily mean spirited.  It also introduces a concept, the idea of being the best for a job, that is passed over like a hit and run accident.  Like so much of the movie, it’s underwritten and feels like a scene that could have been, rather than was.