Tag Archives: Melissa McCarthy

Who You Gonna Call?

New gender-flipping ‘Ghostbusters’ confronts critics—then gets down to funny business

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Ghostbusters
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones
Directed by Paul Feig
PG-13

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

The Ghostbusters, of course! But which ones? The latest, if you haven’t heard, are an all-female crew headed by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, with Saturday Night Live cast mates Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Months before the new Ghostbusters movie was finished, some people didn’t like the idea of anybody futzing with the iconic 1984 original, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis—and especially, apparently, changing the gender roles. The first trailer for the film ignited a firestorm of online trolling and ugly sexist criticism, mostly about bringing women into an all-boy’s club.

The new movie confronts its critics head-on, in a scene where the new Ghostbusters see the doubtful—and hateful—comments underneath online clips of the first spooks they’ve ever captured on video.

“You’re shouldn’t even be reading this,” Abby (McCartney) tells her colleague Erin (Wiig). “You’re not supposed to listen to what crazy people write in the middle of the night.”

Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon;Leslie JonesThen it’s back to funny business—and girls busting ghosts.

Mixing fresh new gags with respectful retro riffs, director and co-writer Paul Feig lets his funny bone point the way, as he demonstrated in BridesmaidsThe Heat and Spy. And he’s working with a cast of comedic dynamos. Wiig’s delightfully dry, droll wit is a perfect complement to McCartney’s bigger, brasher, bawdy physical bravura. They haven’t teamed up for a project since Bridesmaids, and it’s great to see them collaborating again.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth

Leslie Jones gets plenty of laughs as Patty, a subway worker with a knack for Big Apple history who becomes the fourth Ghostbuster. Chris “Thor” Hemsworth seems to be having a ball as the gals’ office “himbo” receptionist, perhaps relishing the opportunity to parody his own macho movie image and the film’s flip of gender roles in general.

But it’s Kate McKinnon who practically steals the show. Her wacky, tech-crazy, live-wire lab-nut weapons wonk feels somewhat of a nod to Dan Aykryod’s character in the original, but she takes it to a totally new place in a unique role that may break her out beyond her hilarious SNL skits.

The plot: Yes, there is one, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. There are fleeting cameos by former Ghostbusters stars and other folks too, including Ozzy Osborne, who shows up at a heavy metal concert. So does a big, bad winged ghost demon. The audience loves it—rock and roll!

It all rises to a screaming crescendo, wobbles and then kind of falls apart, when all the ghosts come out to wreck havoc on the streets and there’s a big, swirling special-effects vortex, a bunch of goop and goo, a parade of giant ghost balloons and appearances by Ghostbusters Hall-of-Fame specters.

Definitely stay for the credits, though, and beyond, because this is one movie that’s not over until it’s over—completely over. And when it is, as the final version of the familiar theme music (this time by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot) plays out and makes your toes tap, the message is clear: For good, ghostly summertime fun with a strong dose of freewheeling 2016 girl power, who you gonna call? You know who!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Melissa McCarthy stars in raunchy rags-to-riches tale

The Boss

Starring Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Bell

Directed by Ben Falcone

Rated R

Steeled and shaped by a childhood of rejection in an orphanage, Michelle Darnell grew up to become a she-wolf of self-made business savvy. Now she’s a superstar investment titan and motivational-mojo guru who descends to the stage of frenzied fan events atop a giant golden phoenix in a spray of dollar bills, celebrating her brazen, competition-crushing excess like a carrot-topped combination of Donald Trump, Suze Orman and Richie Rich.

But the bigger they come, the harder they fall. And Michelle (Melissa McCarthy) tumbles with a titanic thud when she’s arrested for insider trading, loses her company and her home and has to serve a stint of white-collar jail time. When she’s released, with no friends and no family to call on, she bullies her way back to her former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), and her young daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson).

Since making her film breakthrough as part of the ensemble in Bridesmaids (2011), McCarthy moved confidently into the lead for Identity Thief, Tammy, The Heat and Spy, proving her comedic bravura and her raucous adaptability for broad physical humor. She’s a cherub-faced spark plug who’ll go to just about any lengths for a laugh. The Boss is the second of her movies directed by her husband, actor-comedian Ben Falcone, who also makes a brief appearance (as he’s done in several of her films).

Film Title: The Boss

Claire (Kristen Bell) gets some unwanted fashion advice from Michelle (Melissa McCarthy).

Hollywood has always loved a good rags-to-riches tale, and McCarthy and Falcone (who also collaborated on the screenplay, along with Steve Mallory) wring this one for raunchy, R-rated guffaws and give it some crisp contemporary pops that seem deliberately, satirically timed and tuned for the Age of Trump. But it’s also a bit of a flopping mess, a hammy hodgepodge of crude jokes, awkward slapstick gags and sometimes mean-spirited, vulgar humor that just isn’t funny.

As Michelle plots her comeback, she poaches Rachel’s Dandelions scout troop to spin off her own group, Darwin’s Darlings, and creates a bustling new enterprise—built on Claire’s homemade brownies—to compete with the Dandelions’ cookie sales.

Forget Batman v Superman. When it’s Dandelions v Darlings, things get really ugly. If you ever wondered what a Quentin Tarantino-inspired, Kill Bill-esque tween cookie-brownie street brawl might look like, well, The Boss has it.

Film Title: The Boss

Peter Dinklage (from TV’s Game of Thrones) gets chuckles as Michelle’s spurned lover, now himself a preen-y mini-mogul obsessed with samurais. Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong plays Claire’s quirky supervisor at her depressing new office job. Kathy Bates has a scene as a wealthy mentor from Michelle’s past.

There are underlying themes about family and belonging, about rebuilding and reconnecting, about trust and ethics. But mostly The Boss is about laughing—all the way to the bank.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Saints Alive

Bill Murray shines as a grumpy-golden coot-next-door

ST. VINCENT

St. Vincent

Starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher

Directed by Theodore Melfi

PG-13

Bill Murray has carved out a comfortable three-decade movie niche playing sweet-natured troublemakers, loveable oafs and world-weary wiseasses. So the grumpy old coot-next-door he now portrays, at age 64, in St. Vincent seems like a perfect fit, a natural progression.

Murray’s character, Vincent, becomes the caretaker of a 10-year-old boy, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), after Oliver and his stressed-out single mom, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) become his new neighbors—Vincent is strapped for cash and Maggie’s in a bind. Not knowing anyone else, she enlists Vincent to watch Oliver after school and evenings while she works.

“He’s sort of cool, in a grouchy sort of way,” Oliver tells his mother after a few afternoons in Vincent’s care. “Too old to be dangerous, but not too old to be too dangerous.”

ST. VINCENT

Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher & Naomi Watts

Vincent is hardly any mom’s dream babysitter; he drinks, he smokes, he gambles, and he takes Oliver along to the bar and the racetrack. He teaches Oliver to fight and to stand up to the bully at school. It’s no real surprise when Vincent becomes a surrogate father figure to the scrawny, sensitive lad, whose own dad, we learn, is contesting his mother for Oliver’s custody.

It’s a familiar, often sitcom-ish setup, one that most viewers will recognize from a long parade of TV and movie characters who’ve marched before, from W.C. Fields to Uncle Buck. But Murray and his fellow cast members elevate the material far above the basics, giving the story a rich, lived-in texture with grit, laughter, warmth and an easygoing dramatic groove that cuts through the script’s clichés.

We learn why Vincent seems to have given up on almost everything, why he’s out of money, and why he’s willing to gamble away what little he has left. We watch Oliver emerge from his shell, moreST. VINCENT enabled and emboldened to take on the world. And we understand the connection between Oliver’s school assignment about saints, the title of the movie, and a school assembly where everything comes together.

Murray is a gem, the scruffy, gruff-y glue that holds it all together and keeps it from flecking off into granules of sugary-sweet cuteness. It’s a treat to see McCarthy in a role where she gets to play it straight, freed from comedic slapstick and shenanigans. Watts is a hoot—and seems to be having one, too—as Vincent’s pregnant Russian stripper girlfriend. And Lieberher, as Oliver, is a natural in front of the camera who can hold his own, even when sharing the frame with the formidable funnyman.

St. Vincent, in limited release but gaining in popularity, may not be playing “in a theater near you.” But it’s well worth going the extra mile if you have to seek it out; you’ve probably heard Bill Murray’s name cropping up for some awards at the end of this movie year. And by all means, stay until the end—the very end. The extended sequence that plays under the credits, with Murray (as Vincent) singing along to Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm”—the whole song—as he blithely waters a forlorn-looking potted plant with an uncooperative garden hose, is a sublime bit of blissed-out backyard karaoke that is itself almost worth the price of your ticket.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Anything for a Laugh

Melissa McCarthy is up for anything…but is that a good thing?

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Tammy

Starring Melissa McCarthy & Susan Sarandon

Directed by Ben Falcone

R, 96 min.

Melissa McCarthy’s breakout, in the raunchy hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, was an Oscar-nominated supporting role in which her character pooped in a bathroom sink.

As her star ascended, with Sandra Bullock in The Heat and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief, her humor didn’t necessarily rise alongside it to a higher, classier level. Now, in her first bona fide star vehicle—which she co-wrote and produced and her husband, actor Ben Falcone, directed—she sticks with the type of character, for better but mostly for worse, her fans have come to recognize…and expect.

We meet Tammy in the first scene driving her junk car, stuffing her face and jamming out to classic rock on the radio. She’s a big, sloppy mess with a big heart—and big problems. Soon enough, she loses her job, finds her husband cheating with another woman, and sets off on a boozy cross-country road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) to see Niagara Falls.

L14A2579.dngIt’s all meant to be a custom-made template for the wide-open, plus-size shenanigans of the boldly physical McCarthy, who fearlessly charges and barges from one gag to the next. Tammy crashes a jet ski into a pier. Tammy brags about her irresistible sexual prowess—only to be flatly rebuffed by every guy she approaches in a bar. Tammy puts a greasy paper bag on her head to stick up a hamburger joint.

The story careens between crude, lewd slapstick, sentiment, and family woes so deep and dark you’ll have to remind yourself you’re watching a comedy. The characters of Tammy and her grandmother are so poorly written, so badly formed, they seem to be different people at different times, sometimes during the same scene.

The supporting cast—Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd—loll about, pop in, pop out. But none of them are given anything of real significance to do, and I have to wonder what Kathy Bates was thinking as she delivered a ridiculous soliloquy to a piece of sporting equipment at a Viking funeral.

And, shades of Thelma and Louise, what is Susan Sarandon, wearing a grey wig that looks like it’s on loan from the prop closet of TV’s Mama’s Family, doing here at all? She’s a total pro, but she’s barely 20 years older than McCarthy, and the movie wants us to believe she can be Tammy’s grandmother? It’s a colossal casting fail, and it further bungles this bumpy inter-generational road trip.

TAMMYMcCarthy and her director husband Falcone (who appears in an early scene as Tammy’s boss) may enjoy working together, but it appears that what McCarthy really needs is someone who can funnel her comedic chops into something more focused and refined.

At one point, Tammy drives a car between two trees, where it gets stuck. But she keeps giving it the the gas, yelling, ripping off the rearview mirrors, denting the doors and the fenders, determined to get through—which she eventually does.

Like Tammy, McCarthy just keeps pressing, pushing, running, rolling, slamming and bamming—anything for a laugh, a chuckle, a giggle. Tammy may be one banged-up, scuffed-up, dented mess of a movie, but somehow, nonetheless, McCarthy makes it out, to the other side. To what, now, is the real question.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Hot & Bothered

Bullock, McCarthy buddy up as mismatched police partners

TheHeat-1The Heat

DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.99 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Playing a pair of totally mismatched police partners, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy bring a riotously fresh comedic chemistry to this female variation of Hollywood’s familiar “buddy comedy.” Bridesmaids director Paul Feig knows that gals can be just as funny—and just as raunchy—as guys, and The Heat turns up the grown-up tee-hees just about as far as they can go for an R rating. Bonus features include several making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, hilarious commentary (with one track option from the commentators of Mystery Science Theater 3000) and a rundown of the fabulous supporting cast.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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