Friday, November 28, 2008

Fine, fine ... I forgive you for that Two-Face performance in that one Batman movie: "In the Valley of Elah"

This movie made me mad in two ways: One, war really IS hell, so when we engage in one without a good reason, well, that sucks. Two, the Oscar folks clearly don't know sh*t when this movie gets snubbed in favor of dreck like "Juno" for a Best Picture nom. (And I heard "Atonement" wasn't any great shakes, either.)

(OK, a third way: Bad title. Even when we find out what it means, it still makes this sound like some Euro art-house crap. Boo.)

Tommy Lee Jones plays a retired military police officer whose son is serving in Iraq. Then his son's squad/platoon comes back, and dad hasn't heard from junior. Before long, we learn the boy is back but no longer breathing, and the military isn't being all that forthcoming about how the guy died. That leads Jones to work with a local cop (Charlize Theron) on finding the truth, which becomes even tougher as Jones learns more about what his son went through in Iraq.

This may seem like a simple murder mystery involving the military, but as we all know, nothing is as it seems. Paul Haggis of "Crash" fame wrote the screenplay and directed, and some real issues about who is a victim and who is really at fault are raised, providing plenty of chances for all sorts of characters to get indignant.

Besides Jones and Theron, the solid cast includes Susan Sarandon as Jones' wife and Jason Patric as a military police liaison, plus Josh Brolin, Barry Corbin and James Franco in small roles. There's also a guy named Wes Chatham who I had never seen before but absolutely crushes his role as a guy who served with Jones' son. Watch him all the way through. It's worth it.

As for the two leads, Jones got the Oscar nom and earned it. While he doesn't exactly expand his range, he doesn't overact and gives the appropriate amount of depth and pathos. (Big word, I know.) I bought his performance almost all the way through, even if the end was a little too much. Theron's about as good, which makes sense. I mean, she's been nominated for two Oscars and won one. And while she tries to appear plain here and do the single mom thing, she's still hot. Love. Her.

So yeah, good acting, good story, some real drama .... hard to find too much wrong with this movie. The more we learn, the more anxious we become, and I'm not spoiling anything to say there's no happy ending. Still, a powerful film worth seeing, especially considering Jones gets through two hours without ordering a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in the area.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Four movies, zero in common

I've actually seen some real -- and really good -- movies lately. And it's not like the movies below are bad. Far from it. But for now ... take one slacker, add a growing list of viewed movies and too much other crap going on, and abracadabra ... here's the latest roundup.

Vantage Point

I liked this trailer quite a bit, and we even rented this once before from the Redbox but had to take it back before watching it. So when my wife was out of town for the weekend, I went to the Uptown Cabaret ... er, back to the Redbox and took another shot at this.

Our story: The President is at some kind of rally in Spain when he gets shot. The gimmick: We see this episode from a half-dozen points of view over the first 45-50 minutes. There's the TV producer (Sigourney Weaver), the Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), the local cop (don't know), the hitman (some Latin guy in a lot of stuff lately), a tourist (Forest Whitaker), the President (William Hurt), and so on and so forth. Neat trick, but it did stray into the "we get it already" category after a while.

Still, I wasn't bored, and even if it was a glorified version of "24" -- how about this twist! -- I kept watching until all was revealed. The performances were competent, and we were never lacking for action. So yeah, not too bad.

Torn Curtain

And now, a little slower pace. Paul Newman is a U.S. scientist who defects to Germany in this Alfred Hitchcock film. Shelley Winters is his assistant and lover, and a little confused about his switching sides. But a-ha! Newman is merely trying to get nuclear secrets, not trampling on Old Glory. I mean, it's Newman, for goodness sake.

Compared with other Hitchcock movies, this one is way below the radar. And some of it is pretty middling. But two scenes tipped it into the "not bad" realm for me: (1) A death scene that was shot -- successfully so -- in a way to show how hard it is to actually kill a man, and (2) the scene when Newman gets the info he needs. Put it this way ... if you thought he was a good liar in "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Sting" ...

24 Hour Party People

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie when it came out six years ago and jumped to watch it again recently. In short, it's a look at the Manchester music scene of the '70s and '80s through the eyes of a guy who nurtured it to the big time, despite his stumbles.

Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, and he's hilarious in a dry, doltish Brit way. He and the movie-- and hell, the music -- are most definitely an acquired taste. But for those who know The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, et al, Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom present a compelling and highly amusing chronicle or how this beat got off the ground.

Then again, if hearing oh-so-superior Brits drop c-bombs left and right isn't your cup of tea, I'll understand.

Eight Men Out

Not quite as much swearing here, but plenty of bad behavior all the same.

The last time I saw this couldn't have been too long after it came out 20 years ago. My take then: well-done, but a little slow. I'm older now, though, and figured I'd appreciate it more. I guess I did, but I was struck more by how it actually wasn't that slow at all, and really compresses a lot of stuff into a couple of hours.

As you probably know, the story is the Chicago White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Good as they were, the Sox felt underpaid by owner Charlie Comiskey, making them vulnerable to bribery -- even some of the decent guys. The scandal led to eight guys being banned from baseball, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who some say was the best ever.

All-star cast here: John Cusack, David Strathairn, D.B. Sweeney, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, Christopher Lloyd, Clifton James. Throw in Medavoy from "NYPD Blue" and Studs Terkel, plus director John Sayles as Ring Lardner, and it's quite an ensemble.

A couple of problems with that. None of the actors stands out with a "wow" performance. Strathairn probably was the best. Cusack -- as Buck Weaver, sort of caught in the middle -- was annoying after a while. And while things move along somewhat briskly during the series, I ended up a little wanting at the end. I guess to do much beyond them being banned would be a whole other can of worms, but it seemed to shortchange the impact a bit, even with the Joe Jackson thing at the end.

Still, a pretty good and easily digestible take on this dark moment in baseball history. Can't wait until Sayles gets the movie rights for "Juiced" by Jose Canseco.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Clearly he'd be better served by a license to chill: "Quantum of Solace"

With one trip to the cinema, I experienced the glorious intersection of two major geek traditions: James Bond and "Star Trek." While waiting for the latest installment of the former, I caught the trailer for the reinvented version of the latter. And. It. Was. Awesome. I never do this, but here's a link to the trailer. Break out the Romulan ale!

OK, back to our original dorky obsession.

So I'm a James Bond fan. You know this. Seen all of them multiple times, and have owned almost all in some form: DVD, VHS or dubbed videotape. Many is the late night where I've been uninspired by my DVR list and thought, "Yeah, time for some 007." Could be "Goldfinger." Could be "The Spy Who Loved Me." Heck, it could be "Die Another Day," which is reaching pretty far down the secret agent food chain. Doesn't matter. I love the guy.

Then it's no surprise that I couldn't wait to take in the latest film, following the well-done reinvention of the character in "Casion Royale." In fact, I rented "Royale" again last week, knowing I'd be able to see "Quantum of Solace" on Sunday and wanting to refresh my memory of Daniel Craig's first turn as Bond. And it was good.

"Quantum?" Not as good, but not as bad as some critics make it out to be. And yes, I know I'm probably biased here.

I actually went into "Quantum" expecting the worst. Bond has turned into Jason Bourne, they say. Craig needs to lighten up. The story sucks. Where's the sex, gadgets and humor?

To those gripes, I say, in order: not really; yes, a bit; it could have been better; and cutting back on that stuff wasn't all bad. Heresy? Maybe.

Our story picks up immediately after the end of "Royale," which saw Bond tracking down a guy connected to the death of his love, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, may her hot body rest in peace). Right away, there's a bang-up car chase, which Bond survives. Unfortunately, MI-6's efforts to interrogate the suspect are thwarted, leading to a bang-up foot chase across the Siena, Italy, rooftops. So if you're counting, that's a lot of action in about 20 minutes. Not bad.

The trail evenutally leads Bond to Haiti and two people: a beautiful woman who has her own agenda, and an environmental businessman who is up to no good. I could look up these two actors' names, but it's no big deal. She's hot, he's slimy. Let's keep going.

After a fight in a hotel room -- the body count starts to mount, to the chagrin of Bond's boss, M (Dame Judi Dench) -- and a boat chase, we bounce to Austria, then to Bolivia, where we learn the bad guy's scheme, which revolves around controlling water supply. We also learn a little about Quantum, the super-secret organization behind the bad stuff in the previous film and this one. Not much, but a little.

Of course, the CIA is around, too, so we get a return visit from Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, a familiar name in the Bond lexicon. Giancarlo Giannini also returns as Mathis, the guy Bond thought was a double agent in "Royale." Finally, we get a fling with a British agent in Bolivia, which keeps the Bong-banging-girls streak alive. Note: He doesn't get with the main Bond girl, to the dismay of some fans, I'm sure.

He also doesn't have much in the way of gadgets -- or anything, I think. Instead, we see the superduper technology that MI-6 has. Touch screens galore! Take that, John King and CNN! But hey, there's an Aston Martin, even if it's beat to hell in the opening scene.

So yeah, let's talk about how this isn't a real Bond movie. I'll admit I didn't like director Marc Forster dropping the traditional opening. I also wouldn't have minded at least one or two little gadgets. Just little ones! Not asking for a mini-jet or a submarine car. And hey, what's with not having an evil henchman? My kingdom for a guy to join Jaws and Oddjob in the annals of enjoyable assassins.

Also, some of the action was shot in a Bourne way: up close and personal. That's OK sometimes, but I think some scenes would have been better with a little distance to show the majesty of the shots. Say what you will about the Pierce Brosnan movies: Some of those big scenes looked great. Love the wide angles.

Those scenes often lacked heart, though, and that's where I think "Quantum" and Craig hold up all right. Yes, the main story is a little boring and incomplete, and yes, Craig could give the steely-eyed thing a break at times. But the guy also is in mourning, and it's right after his woman died -- not six months or a year later. If you focus more on that storyline -- the vengeful Bond -- this movie is OK and moves along fairly well. (It's the shortest Bond ever by running time, by the way.)

And it's not like Craig was humorless. He cracks a few jokes without dropping any painful double entendres. (Brosnan was horrible at that.) And for being a hard bastard, he clearly does have a heart -- not only for Vesper, but this other Bond girl and even M.

In time, I wonder if this movie -- even with its big budget -- will fall into the same category as "Licence to Kill," Timothy Dalton's last turn as Bond. I've come to see that movie as misunderstood. Critics say it's too violent and heartless, and lacks gadgets and humor. (Sound familiar?) But that Bond also wanted revenge after his friend Felix and Felix's wife were attacked. Bond goes rogue, and it's refreshing to see him with a damn-it-all, I'm-killing-this-guy-for-me attitude.

"Licence" has the better villain, with Robert Davi chewing up his role as a Latin American drug lord. Meanwhile, the "Quantum" villan was sleazy enough but pretty one-note and in the end just kind of there. But "Quantum" does give us a Latin babe who isn't as lame as the one in "Licence," and there's no bizarre Wayne Newton appearance -- one of the low points in Bond history.

Final verdict on "Quantum": Not as good as "Royale," but a decent second chapter for Craig. In other words, we still have "A View to a Kill" to kick around for a while yet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And to think it all started with him dumping a slushie on Anthony Michael Hall from the second floor of a mall: "Iron Man"

Remember? "Weird Science?" Downey was one of the high school punks. "This party's lame, Max!" Or maybe you preferred his turn in "Back to School?" "I don't think so, Osborne!" Those were the days. Before those nasty drugs.

Robert Downey Jr. still is one crazy cat, and I love him. If you haven't seen "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang," do so. And I still need to see "Tropic Thunder." While waiting for that DVD -- and because I was in the mood for popcorn fare while my wife was away -- I watched "Iron Man" again over the weekend. Consider it the sunnier cousin to the major drag of "The Dark Knight" (which was good but not exactly cheery).

To recap: Downey is Tony Stark, super-rich weapons manufacturer. He gets captured in Afghanistan and has a electromagnet installed in his chest to keep the shrapnel away from his heart. Instead of building a super-cool missile system as his captors demand, he fashions an iron suit with all sorts of weapons and then escapes.

Back home, he realizes he should do more to make the world better and builds a better suit. Alas, his company's other boss (Jeff Bridges, with no hair on his head but too much on his chin) isn't a fan on the new Tony, and things get ugly when another iron guy shows up. As the deputy in "No Country for Old Men" would say, "Whoa, differences!"

Aiding Stark are his loyal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, looking good as a redhead ... those legs, woof) and a military dude (Terrence Howard, doing as much as he can with a light role). But the real show here is Downey, who knocks the genius playboy schtick out of the park and does .... OK when he gets religion. I mean, I understand his change of heart given his captivity and what he saw. But Downey always will be more convincing as a cocky smart-ass.

As for the whiz-bang, "Iron Man" delivers one really good sequence with our hero fending off a couple of jets and taking out a terrorist camp. That battle with the first suit is kind of cool, too. But the big climax isn't all that great. It's just a couple of tin men bonking each other on city streets, and no amount of Downey and Bridges talkihg trash through their faceplates can compensate for a general lack of emotion there.

Still, not bad for a comic book movie, and not infernally long, either, which was nice. I would have trimmed 15-20 minutes to keep things more zippy, but no real harm. And Bridges wasn't a bad villian, although he would have been better without that ridiculous beard. I can understand the shaved head -- he apparently always wanted to do that -- but all that crap on his chin? Dude, I can't abide ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If loving him is wrong, I don't want to be right: "Role Models"

You might guess that a movie with Paul Rudd as a lead would have me running to the cineplex faster that Levi Johnston said "So I don't have to marry Bristol now, right?" after McCain's concession speech.

Good guess.

To my credit, I didn't see "Role Models" on opening weekend. With my wife galivanting around Savannah on her selfish pregnant girls getaway, I was minding our little girl. (Because she certainly doesn't mind me. Pow! I'll be here all week.) As much as I wanted my Rudd fix, the movie seemed less than suitable for nearly 2-year-old eyes. So it was that I caught the midday matinee, before my afternoon/evening shift.

Our story has Master Rudd and Stifler from "American Pie" (as opposed to Stifler from "Hamlet") as employees of an energy drink company who pitch the drink at local schools. Yes, that's how far education has fallen in this country. Anyway, Rudd -- having a bad day ... well, life, actually -- flips out at a school, and a judge orders the dynamic duo to perform community service. That leads them to an organization run by the very creepy Jane Lynch -- the tall blonde woman from those Christopher Guest movies -- and to two messed up kids.

Rudd draws a teen obsessed with a live-action fantasy game. You know, Dungeons and Dragons and that kind of crap. Something my friend Justin probably does on weekends when he says he's watching football. The kid is played by Fogell from "Superbad," and he's about as good here as he was there. More endearing, to be sure, but still funny. I about lost it during the "whispering eye" bit.

Stifler gets a little black kid who makes Eddie Murphy in "Raw" look like Mother Teresa. Yeah, the kid's got a mouth, and was burning through mentors before Stifler. They soon find they have a few things in common -- mainly an appreciation for boobs. Make that three of us.

As you can tell, hijinks ensue when our heroes are paired up with the kids. We get the predictable arc: The guys are clueless, then they get it, then they screw up, and each has to fix it. There's also the matter of Rudd trying to get back his girlfriend, the perpetually cute Elizabeth Banks (although she's in everything these days). That plot line isn't as strong as the other stuff, and I also could have done without as much Jane Lynch. It felt like they were stretching things out to make sure the movie lasted at least 90 minutes.

Still, Rudd and Stifler both were funny, and "Models" manages to keep a decent edge throughout. I like the way it started (with these sad sacks making their school tours) and the way it ended (with the battle royale for the dorky fantasy game). There also were enough goofy bit parts and throwaway lines to keep me laughing for the most part, and it's not like it takes much work to watch crude silliness like this anyway.

I'll admit that my man crush on Rudd means I'd probably give a film version of him reading "Where the Wild Things Are" four stars. But even though I enjoyed "Models," it still falls a bit short of "Old School" in the crudeness annals and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in the sweetness category. That's not to say it won't grow on me with repeat viewings. Oh yes ... there will be repeat viewings. The Rudd rush delivers a nice high, but I can't go too long without a fix.

I just thought of something. What if Paul Rudd and Diane Lane were in the same movie? ......



Let's just say it's a good thing I'm sitting down. For a couple of reasons. Maybe it's best for everyone that such a pairing hasn't happened, and with Lane's retirement from acting, apparently never will. I don't know about the world, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't take it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I'm with the annoying British rock star ... maybe you can have both of them ... together: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"

I think we can agree there are waaaaayyy too many movies out there with Judd Apatow's fingerprints all over them. Seriously ... did this guy say, "I'm going to have my hands in a movie released every month, and that's that," or what? That said, I'm psyched for "Role Models." And yes, it's because of Paul Rudd.

Also that said, I recently rented "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" -- even though She Who Lights My World and I saw it in the theater not that long ago -- because it rightly kicks a$$ for films of this ilk. Forget the crappy title and lack of Seth Rogen (tired of him) or Michael Cera (trying not to get tired of him). This movie may be as crass as the rest, but there's definitely more heart and more realistic characters, especially compared with the overrrated "Knocked Up."

(Paul Rudd's in both, by the way, and while his part is bigger in "Knocked Up," he's funnier in "Marshall.")

Our hero is Peter (Jason Segel), the boyfriend of a hot TV star (Kristen Bell) who gets dumped right after getting out of the shower. This means he's naked, which could be funny if it didn't involve showing the audience his penis. That'll cost you a star, folks. Hope the sight gag was worth it.

Peter decides to get away from it all in Hawaii. Unfortunately, his ex-girlfriend is there with her new beau, a hilarious Brit-rock guy (Russell Brand). Fortunately, Peter -- when he's not being pathetic -- latches onto a hot hotel clerk (Mila Kunis). Soon there's all sorts of tension at the hotel, which makes for plenty of uncomfortably fun scenes. We also get laughs with some of the side characters, such as Jack McBrayer as a clueless newlywed, Jonah Hill as a restaurant host in love with the rock star and the esteemed Mr. Rudd as a surfing instructor. Love. Him.

The funnies are plenty funny, but the real win in "Marshall" comes from making the four main players seem like real people. For instance, Peter's not a total victim, since he had a hand in screwing up his relationship. Also, his ex isn't a total bitch, her boyfriend isn't a total dolt, and Peter's new squeeze isn't all perfect.

I know I said something similar in my first post on this movie, but it struck me just as much the second time around. Too often we get too many one-dimensional characters -- the price paid for a bigger focus on the ha-ha. But this movie has, dare I say it, a little depth. Yes, Peter's plight is amusing, and Brand's rock star is hilarious. But there are some lessons here. Take it from Kunu, the surfing instructor:

"When life gives you lemons ... just say 'F*ck the lemons,' and bail."

Amen, Kunu ... amen.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

You know it's bad when Footloose boy and Nell are taking matters into their own hands: A vigilante double feature

So what's been going on this week? Any big news?

Before I joined the rest of the nation in being glued to election coverage Tuesday, I knocked out a couple of mostly unappealing movies in which good people get wronged, then get even. Something like this always makes me think of "Death Wish," or maybe "I Spit on Your Grave." Neither of those movies is really any good, and these two weren't, either.

So is this one degree of separation or two?: "Death Sentence"

I vaguely remember this coming out and being poorly received. The story is by the guy who actually wrote "Death Wish," and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't longing for Chuck Bronson, sh*tty mustache and all.

The opening credits roll over home movies of Kevin Bacon and Kelly Preston raising their two sons. We see the little boys grow up, and gee, aren't they a sweet and swell crew? What could possibly disrupt this perfect existence?

Stopping at the wrong gas station, as it turns out, where a gang kills Bacon's son. That crushes him, of course, and without getting into all the details, he goes rogue. I don't need your stupid laws! I was the Hollow Man, dammit!

This movie is somewhat unique in how depressing and bloody it is -- the director did the first "Saw" movie -- especially when things get even worse for our hero and he goes even more rogue. (Roguer?) But this really isn't a good thing, and I'm not sure there's much more I can say about a film that is both dreary and silly. But hey, if you need a pick-me-up ...

More like "The Broken One": "The Brave One"

This got slightly better reviews than the above, which isn't saying much. Time was we considered Jodie Foster above stuff like this. (Yes, even with "Maverick.") And really, if you've seen "The Accused," do you need to see her get abused yet again?

Foster is engaged to Sayid from "Lost" when they make the bad call to let their dog run loose one night in Central Park. They get attacked by a branch of the same psycho punks that wronged Bacon's family, and Sayid dies. She lives but is a shell of her former self. Afraid to walk the streets -- ironic, given her radio job of chronicling New York -- Foster eventually seeks comfort in gun ownership. Again, what could go wrong?

So yeah, she starts getting a little reckless with the pistol on random folks, and the police -- led by Terrence Howard -- wonder what's going on. It goes on long enough that I wondered if the real bad guys would ever get theirs, as the trailer seemed to promise. I won't ruin it for you, but there's a bit of a twist that, while interesting, doesn't really make this any better. Actually, it's kind of a ripoff.

In short, Foster and Howard are fine, but I never bought the overall premise and the climax didn't save the story. Throw in another unpleasant assault, and I would have been OK skipping it. What can I say? I like my violence a little more detached. Maybe it's the video games. I mean, it's not like those ghosts are really killing Pac-Man, right?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On capers, commies and copulating males. (OK, not really.)

Quick hits before the list gets out of hand.

Who's next? DeNiro?: "Ocean's Thirteen"

I'm pretty sure he's available these days, based on his questionable choices of roles.

In a nutshell, this is better than the last one but not as good as the first. The whole gang is back, minus Julia Roberts (thank god). This time, they're out for revenge after a Vegas heavy (Al Pacino) wrongs their pal Elliott Gould. You know what to expect: elaborate plans and nothing is as it seems. Oh yes ... hijinks ensue.

Compared to that crap in Europe when most in the cast seemed to be mugging to the camera (more than usual), the return to Vegas is welcome, and I enjoyed this movie all right. Not as much fun as "Eleven," and plenty more confusing. Still, not bad.

Would you trust Turk 182 and Spicoli with national secrets?: "The Falcon and the Snowman"

Never saw this mid-80s tale of actual 1970s treason until last month. Timothy Hutton is a seminary dropout who ends up at a defense company. Disillusioned by what the CIA does in the name of national security, he and his pal, a drug dealer (Sean Penn), start selling info to the Russians via their Mexico embassy. Yeah, I'm sure nothing can go wrong here.

As you might guess, our heroes get in over their head, with Penn especially dipsh*tty. It's no surprise that they get caught. It's just a matter of when. But as interesting as it is to revisit the Cold War, the story drags on too long, and none of the performances are anything great. Hutton and Penn can act, of course, but their characters are pretty one-note here.

Speaking of the Cold War in the '70s ... : "Telefon"

Weird title for what is really an OK story: A rogue Russian gets hold of a list of sleeper agents in the U.S. and starts "activating" them -- sending them on suicide missions. The Russians understandably want to keep this under wraps and send a military officer with a photographic memory (Charles Bronson) to the U.S. to catch the bad guy (Donald Pleasance).

Helping our hero is CIA agent Lee Remick, while Tyne Daly plays a government computer geek looking for patterns in the mysterious deaths. Not a bad cast, but also not a great fit for this story. Remick looks great but isn't a convincing agent at all. Pleasance is mostly wasted; we're told about his character's possible motivation, but he doesn't get a chance to show us much.

Worst of all is Bronson. He does his Bronson thing, and it's really off base. One, I'm not sure he even tried a Russian accent. Two, he comes across as more aloof than menacing. Three, that mustache sucks. It's a shame, too, because I did like the story, even if the DVR cut off the last few minutes. Damn DirecTV.

It's not good when I believe these two guys getting together before I buy Jessica Biel going for Sandler: "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"

Yeah, I recorded this from one of the movie channels, thinking She Who Defines My Life and I could watch a silly comedy together. Then she passed, and I soldiered on alone. Wasn't horrible, but definitely wasn't great.

Adam Sandler and Kevin James are NYC firefighters -- the former a male slut, the latter a widower with two kids. When James' can't get his pension benefits switched over from his dead wife to his kids, he comes up with a harebrained scheme to have Sandler be his domestic partner so he -- upstanding sort that he is -- can take care of the kids. Got that?

Of course, questions arise, requiring the need for a lawyer. That's Biel, who does have one magnificent scene midway through the movie. Not acting as much as underwear. Oh my. Oh mommy. This movie is worth seeing just for that. Or find the scene on YouTube. It's nice.

Otherwise, we get some hamhanded attempts at making this more than a silly comedy -- early shots showing the heroism of firefighters, later scenes of how prejudice toward gay people is bad. Bad! But as much as we're meant to learn lessons along with our heroes, it's all too sappy, and the laughs in between the pap don't pass muster. Nice try, guys, but nothing great here.