My parents recommended Paul Weiland’s delightful “true-ish story” SIXTY-SIX (***1/2) after they recently saw it and I am thankful that they alerted me to this films existence. This is the story of Bernie Reubens (a charming Gregg Sulkin), a kid about to have his Bar mitzvah but who is afraid that the party won’t be all that it can be because of the fact that England might be playing in the World Cup Finals on the same day as his ceremony. The awesome British character actor Eddie Marsan, who had a fantastic year with his solid work in this film as well has his great work in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY and a quick but memorable appearance in HANCOCK, plays Manny, Bernie’s father, who is struggling with family financial problems and trying to break the news to his son that his Bar mitzvah won’t be as lavish as his older brother’s was. Bernie, not a fan of football (or soccer as we Americans call it), is all about his big-day with the Torah; he’s arranging seating charts, making invitations, and trying to figure out the menu. But when England starts to surprisingly win a few matches and then make it into the finals, everything is put to the test for Bernie and his family. Who will show up for the ceremony and the party? Will England win the game? What will happen with Manny and his finances? The film, which is a tad predictable and a little overly sentimental, earns the right to be both of those things through the sincere performances and the Weiland’s believable dialogue Marsan is so good as Manny and Sulkin is so effective as Bernie that you end up truly rooting for them to get exactly what they want. Helena Bonham Carter appears as Bernie’s mother, and as always, she’s a welcome addition to the cast. This is a light, breezy comedy with a few moments of drama thrown into the mix. It’s a lot of fun.
HAMLET 2 (***) is an off-the-wall showcase for its mega-talented star Steve Coogan, who most American audiences will recognize from his bit-part in this year’s TROPIC THUNDER. Co-written by SOUTH PARK alum Pam Brady and co-written and directed by Andrew Fleming (DICK, THE CRAFT), this is a gleefully dirty comedy that is the very definition of un-PC. Coogan is Dana Marschz, a failed actor who has retreated to Tucson and gets by on his meager salary as a high-school drama teacher. Marschz, who thinks he’s a better actor than he really is, is surprised one day to find that enrollment in his class as tripled due to other electives being cancelled. He inherits a rag-tag group of kids (mostly Latino) and after learning that the drama department is about to scrapped due to budget cuts, he devises an outrageously offensive sequel to HAMLET, which includes an asininely funny musical bit entitled “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.” Parents and school officials are outraged, but that doesn’t stop Marschz from putting on his show. The film is hit and miss all throughout; that’s normally the deal when you’re dishing out a joke a second. Brady and Fleming take shots at the public school system in America and liberally assault pretty much every ethnic and religious group. And while most of it’s funny, some of it is stale. But it’s mostly saved by the rambunctious comic energy of Coogan, who could definitely become a big star in America if he plays his cards right. Before you check out HAMLET 2, I’d advise that your rent the criminally underrated 2005 comedy TRISTAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY, which also features Coogan, and is much, much better. Still, for an undemanding rental, HAMLET 2 will do just fine.
THE WACKNESS (**1/2) was, to use a term straight out of the vocabulary of the film’s lead character, a’ight. It was a’ight, yo! Written and directed by Jonathan Levine, THE WACKNESS is one of the first films to take the 1990’s and use them for the basis of a true “period” picture. Lots of shots of 90’s apparel, technology, and automobiles. Josh Peck is Luke Shapiro, a high-school pot head (and dealer) who trades weed for therapy sessions with his bong-ripping shrink Dr. Squires (a having-fun Ben Kingsley). The two of them are immature clowns, looking to get laid in NYC, except one of them is going through a mid-life crisis, and the other is still a virgin. The film is mostly entertaining but ultimately silly, and the whigger-lingo employed by Shapiro is, at first funny, and then fairly annoying. I know that’s his character, but it just sort of grates a bit on the nerves. Still, it’s not a terrible movie; it’s got some funny lines, a handful of good scenes, and the cute Olivia Thirlby from JUNO and SNOW ANGLES plays, well, the same character she played in those two films. There are a few steamy sex scenes, lots of pot use, a decent hip-hop soundtrack, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. I wouldn’t be surprised if Levine follows up THE WACKNESS with something better.