A Three-Movie Weekend

The Big Kahuna (1999), We’re the Millers (2013), The Heat (2013)

Bad weather the previous weekend, couple with an intense desire to do nothing but stare at something on screen led to this movie watching marathon.  Each selection proved excellent in its genre.

“Kahuna” is a go-to DVD for when you simply want to watch actors act, and with the full realization that the movie is indeed a one act play and could easily be recreated on any humble  stage with one set.    Not surprisingly the movie is based on a play entitled “Hospitality Suite.”  So, being a play more than a movie, Kahuna is all about the characters whose development is conveyed through well written dialogue.  The three salesmen featured in the movie, and who are the only characters save for the offscreen big-pocket client are played by veteran Kevin Spacey, Danny Devito in one of his finest performances, and someone young, named Peter Fachinelli.   They are in Kansas City, in a pedestrian middle-America hotel,  for a trade show or convention where they are hoping to land a lucrative account.  The vast majority of the movie has to do with discussions between the three prior to the client reception they will be hosting in the suite.   We have the Spacey character, caustic, rude, blunt, articulate, and who often goes for shock value as he demeans the young newcomer played by Fachinelli, as well as Spacey’s longtime friend and associate, everyman DeVito.  Fachinelli is an earnest young Baptist-belt almost Evangelist type while Spacey’s religion, you are meant to see, is all about sales.  Spacey’s character is refreshingly upfront about his values, but as the interactions develop, one of the many interesting elements to surface is that we can’t be really clear what his values are.  The obvious question is what makes any religion better or worse than another.  Spacey and Fachinelli represent the extremes, which leads the quieter DeVito to deliver the kind of wisdom that makes you hang on his words and which only results from a lifetime of observing from the sidelines.  I can’t say enough about the exquisite delivery from DeVito as he expertly lets the audience  into his world bit by bit.

The notes on the DVD are as misleading as all hell.  This is not a fast-paced action movie “where careers are made or broken on a handshake.”  That description has nothing to do with what the movie is about.  So don’t expect that going in, if you’ve not seen this movie, expect to settle back  and to enjoy feeling as though you are watching actors on stage in a play.

Grab “The Millers” if you are in the mood for R rated road-trip comedy done well, complete with outrageous characters and some innovative twists.  It’s a true R rating so no watching with kids and hoping to skip ahead a couple of times.  Jason Sudeikis plays a small time marijuana dealer who persuades Jennifer Aniston, as an aging stripper, to pose as his wife for a jaunt across the border to pick up some more drugs so he can pay off his supplier.  He also recruits a nerdy neighbor to be his “son” and a trampy runaway for his “daughter”, with the thinking that a family in an RV will not receive attention from the DEA or the CBP and thus make it easier to accomplish the mission.  New heights of comic situations evolve, and I’m happy to say, enough fresh and original writing that is so perfectly paced there are virtually no dull moments.  Even better, the script does more than advance the story and showcase actors who can do comedy:  there is a nicely-honed satirical twist throughout that adds to the enjoyment.  For example,  a hippie being flogged by the authorities at the US/Mexican border for smuggling a joint.   The creative satire and enjoyable performances remind me of a time when SNL and National Lampoon were groundbreaking.

Finally, “The Heat.”  Please understand, in order to attract me to a cop movie, in general it must deliver three things.  It must not be overly gory, which I understand is pretty much a movie prerequisite, however if I have to put up with gun violence, there better be a heaping helping of comedy so that the violence seems almost secondary.  Think Beverly Hills Cop. (Oh, and more on that in a sec).  Finally, it must feature actors that I actually care about seeing.  So you can see why I waited so long to see The Heat, and why I see so few cop movies in general.    Apparently, there had been much more serious skepticism voiced  than my own, having to do with whether audiences would accept women in a buddy-cop movie which has been a completely male dominated genre.  This movie did answer that question, and very effectively I might add.  Sandra Bullock together with Melissa McCarthy have brought characters to the screen who are as kick-ass original and entertaining as Eddie Murphy was in the BHC series. Both McCarthy and Bullock were given characters that allowed them to extrapolate the best elements from other roles they have played – and then to run with it.  Like “The Millers”, the writing kept everything moving along.  It is a slam dunk all around and also like BHC, I’m actually hoping for a Heat 2 and 3.

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