Movie Reviews: Dinner for Schmucks, The Kids Are All Right, Cats & Dogs

There are moments of real hilarity in this odd remake of the 1997 French dark comedy about a rising exec (Paul Rudd) who brings the perfect guest (Steve Carell) to his boss's monthly "dinner for idiots", but they are few and far between.  Rudd and Carell have enjoyed success working together before (40 Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman), and they're both enjoyable to see on screen, but you can feel them working pretty hard to squeeze laughs out of scenes where there aren't any.  Director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) is sometimes able to manage the appropriate wacky tone, but he can't sustain it over the course of the movie's overly long 110 minutes.  As much as the performers contribute (side players Jemaine Clement and Zach Galifianakis shine most bright), the script is a mess.  The movie mostly just drags along until the dinner scene at the end, which, as it turns out, is a bit of a letdown given the fact that you've already seen all of the funny moments in the trailer.  Up until then, it's just one outlandish sequence after another - pairing Rudd and Carell in forced, unbelievable scenarios so as to manufacture a screen friendship between them.  Some are funny, most aren't.  The best bits?  Pretty much all of the stuffed mice dioramas created by Carell's Barry character, and a very funny scene with Galifianakis, where he tells a joke and then cracks himself up with a nasally, barely repressed laugh.  I just wish the movie could crack its audience up as much as its characters.
Like most other scrappy independent comedies of its ilk, The Kids Are All Right is fresh, intelligent, and boasts very fine performances from all five of its leads.  It's also highly overrated - critics have been salivating over it, and I'm wondering if that has anything to do with its summer release, amidst all the testosterone-fueled action and comic book flicks.  Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star as a lesbian married couple with two kids, whose lives are shaken up by the introduction of the kids' sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).  An interesting premise to be sure, and one ripe for comedy (hello, Made in America!), but Lisa Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg get tied up in a subplot involving Moore's affair with Ruffalo - a plot development that's given way too much focus and, for me, was just too unbelievable.  Although it's frequently witty, I don't know that I would call the movie "funny," having not laughed once during it.  Still, Ruffalo and Bening are great, and if the movie gets any recognition come Oscar time, it should be for them.  
This sequel that nobody wanted starts off strong, with a clever parody of the James Bond title credits, and quickly fades from memory thanks to lame animal puns and frantic, poorly staged action sequences.  Watching it, I had to wonder: has there ever been a good live-action movie made about talking animals?  Julie reminded me about Babe, which was excellent, but I don't think there's anything else.  What is Hollywood's weird fascination with this type of kids movie anyway?  Who wants to see animated mouths on real animals?  Even with a star-studded vocal cast, as is here (James Marsden, Bette Midler, Christina Applegate, Neil Patrick Harris), there's something inherently cheesy about the concept.  Anyway, if you're jonesin' for animals taking on a spy mission, watch last year's far superior (and that ain't saying much) G-Force instead. 

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