Day: May 26, 2013

Bunny and the Bull (2009)

We’ve all reached that point in our lives when it feels like we’re going nowhere. The wheels are spinning, but a lifestyle of lethargy and apathy act like an anchor. The reasons can sometimes be a lack of money, insufficient  experience  to get a job or, in the case of Bunny and the Bull’s Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg), an unending fear of the very worst things in life happening. Stephen has crippling agoraphobia and not left his flat in months, which has become an altar to unshakable depression and OCD. When some mice threaten his usually rigorous daily routine, Stephen finds himself beginning to reminisce about the events that led to his present day situation.

The catalyst for everything appears to be a man called Bunny (Simon Farnaby). Aggressive, confrontational, bawdy, a billy bullshitter and Stephen’s closest friend, Bunny convinces him to go on a trip to Europe and it’s this trip that makes up the bulk of the film’s narration.

Paul King (The Mighty Boosh/Come Fly with Me) provides a novel approach to Stephen’s flashbacks, which in hindsight, is reminiscent of the latest adaptation of one of Tolstoy’s classics. Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina was set firmly within the confines  of an abandoned theatre. Wright was suggesting the text’s protagonists are never true to themselves or each other. Merely aping emotions and putting on a front.  The artificial meets reality. Similarly, Stephen’s adventures with Bunny are constructed out of the contents of his own flat. Takeaway cartons contort into restaurants, forests spring from cardboard and the sky fills with newspaper snow. If the hero refuses to leave his flat, then neither shall the story. It produces the effect of someone trying to pick their way through their memories, creating a hazy recollection that isn’t quite true. In the same way, Levin, Anna Karenina’s only realist, leaves the theatre, Stephen’s memories only start to be realistic when he comes to terms with the root of the problem.

Finding the deeper meaning in all this may seem a bit much knowing that Bunny and the Bull is supposed to be a comedy. But like all the best comedies, it’s successful because of this dark field in which it pitches its humour. In this instance, a young man’s potential insanity. When the laughs come, they are wonderful. From eating his bodyweight in seafood to more life threatening risks, Farnaby’s Bunny refuses to bow down in the face of any adversity and comes across like a mean-spirited Homer Simpson. On top of that there are unsurprisingly comedic turns from Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and Richard Ayoade who have all collaborated with King in the past.

Bunny and the Bull is a delightfully quirky, extremely well crafted comedy that has a real heart and speak to anyone who feels, like Stephen, they’ve come to a stop.

The Hangover Part III (2013)

Struggling to cope with the death of his father, man-child, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has been refusing to take his meds and is displaying personality traits that are a little out of the ordinary, even for him. Egged on by their wives, the Wolf Pack agree to take him to a care home for some professional help. Of course, nothing can run smoothly in these films and along the way, they are hijacked by John Goodman’s crime boss, Marshall. Taking one of their number as collateral, Marshall encourages the gang to hunt down the infamous Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) and the gold that he stole from him.

Director Todd Philips has given us a Hangover entry that is so far removed from the first two, you wonder if this should have been a movie in its own right rather than part of a franchise. If the first two chapters of the trilogy were the party, then The Hangover Part III is very much the true hangover. The original 2009 misadventure in Vegas has sparked a chain of events that will lead our heroes down a dark path. A very dark, very violent path. Yes, this is the only film in trilogy to have a body count. Not everyone will have chance to get up and walk it off.

Philips is clearly experimenting with his style here and there are some cinematic flourishes that impress. A stealthy walk through a Las Vegas hotel suite is like entering the second circle of hell. Strobe lighting provides a fractured scene of drugs, violence and glassy-eyed prostitutes that causes genuine unease. It wouldn’t look out-of-place in a Michael Mann film and there in lies the problem. Like the acts of violence that pop throughout the course of the narrative, it all belongs in another film.

It’s because of this subdued narrative that the film fails to provide any proper laughs. Alan has mutated from a hairy means-well, to a mean-spirited son of a bitch. A man who you wouldn’t share a towel with let alone your holidays. Galifianakis relies on shouting his lines and tripping over things for humour and as Part 3 is largely built around him, it can become extremely tiring. Compounding the lack of laughs is the decision to greatly expand the role of Ken Jeong as Mr Chow. Spending as much time on the screen as the others, he has become a vicious sociopath, who breaks the necks of dogs and abuses call girls. Whilst this obviously gives Jeong something meatier to get his teeth into, it just feels uncomfortable rather than amusing. With Jeong and Galifianakis dominating the screen, there is very little for Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms to do aside from react and gurn.

It’s interesting to note that the biggest laughs in the film come from a mid-credits sting that acts a way for Philips to say: ‘Look, if you wanted another bootleg copy of the original that tops the second, then THIS is how we’d have to do it. Is that what you really would have wanted?’ And weirdly, it may have been better to go down the path of least resistance. When you create a film that makes The Hangover Part II seem not all that bad in comparison, we have a problem.

The bottom line is, The Hangover never needed sequels and this rather limp finale suggests that all involved were better off doing something else with their time. Rather than grabbing at straws in an attempt to replicate the success of the original.