This weekend brings three wide release movies – two that you’ve heard of and one that you haven’t – and an indie musical that’s hoping to sweep the Academy off its feet. Unfortunately, for the three I’ve seen, they’re nowhere near as good as they could be.
The widest release of the weekend is the R-rated holiday comedy ‘Office Christmas Party‘. Co-directed by the guys who gave us ‘Blades of Glory‘, the raunchy ensemble includes Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Kate McKinnon and a bunch of other unfunny ‘Saturday Night Live’ folks. When a company’s crotchety CEO (Aniston) cancels a branch’s Christmas party, the branch manager (Miller), who just so happens to be her brother, throws the party anyway. His mission is two-fold: 1) to raise employee morale; and 2) to invite a stodgy potential client whose business would keep the branch afloat. Of course, when the party gets out of control, everything starts to fall apart. Only a Christmas miracle can save the day. And only a Christmas miracle can ever get me to watch ‘Office Christmas Party’ again. Most jokes and gags fall flat and the story is so stupid that it’s worth being spelled s-t-o-o-p-i-d.
The second-widest release comes to us from John Madden – no, not the football legend, the Oscar-nominated director of ‘Shakespeare in Love‘. Jessica Chastain plays the title character in ‘Miss Sloane‘, a political, corporate and legal drama that revolves entirely around a single hard-hitting lobbyist who takes on a job that’s bound to fail. Although a completely amoral character, she pulls a ‘Jerry Maguire’ and walks out on her posh job to join a smaller firm that’s actively seeking to pass a bill promoting strict gun regulations. Watch as she plays people like pawns and tap dances on the fine line between legal and illegal action. Chastain is great, as is her supporting cast, which includes Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill and John Lithgow. ‘Miss Sloane’ is a decent film; however, it’s not very memorable and certainly doesn’t have rewatchability.
Next is the small crowd-funded romantic comedy ‘The Bounce Back‘, which opens at more than 600 locations. Shemar Moore plays a relationship expert who can’t keep a relationship going. When he meets a fellow expert (Nadine Velazquez) with opposite advice and ideals, the two blend like oil and water, yet their chemistry somehow attracts them to one another. The trailer makes ‘The Bounce Back’ look terribly clichéd and unfunny, but since it wasn’t screened for press, I can’t say if that’s actually the case.
One of the most anticipated films of the season debuts on five screens this weekend. While critics have been fawning over ‘La La Land‘ since its run on the festival circuit, I have to disagree with popular opinion. The letter B should be added to each word of the title because it’s bla-bla-bland. From the director of the wonderful indie hit ‘Whiplash‘, ‘La La’ reteams Ryan Gosling with Emma Stone and forces them to do their best Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire impressions. While the cinematography and dancing are gorgeous and charming, the film ultimately collapses beneath two major issues: Gosling and Stone have no chemistry and the music is entirely forgettable. I can’t tell you the name of a single song, nor can I repeat any lyrics or hum any of the melodies. The plot is as clichéd and predictable as can be. Although many critics have been enchanted by its beautiful façade, I can’t see past the movie’s unoriginality.