Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: June 24, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is inspired by Larry the Cable Guy and his character of Mater in the Cars movies. After all, if a buck-toothed rusty redneck pick-up truck can travel the world, why can’t a bald-yet-hairy fat guy from Ohio can do so as well. Kevin lurked in the streets of Tokyo, hoping to stumble onto some classy British spies and uncover a plot to undermine green energy sources. Then he brushed off his teaching degree and got a job at a middle school where he drank profusely, slept through the day and threw dodge balls at the kids.

When he tried to explain to the cops that he was just following in the way of Cameron Diaz’s character from Bad Teacher, they just laughed at him and hauled him away.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Kevin is joined in the Magical Studio in the Sky by Amy from The Night of the Living Podcast, bringing the raunchiness back to the show in the Internet-only segment.

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Studio: Disney/Pixar

Rated: G

Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer and Bonnie Hunt

Directed by: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis

What it’s about: Lightning McQueen is challenged to race an Italian sports car in the World Grand Prix, and his old buddy Mater from Radiator Springs joins in for a whirlwind trip around the world. However, Mater stumbles into hot water when he gets caught up in an international spy incident, which endangers Lightning McQueen and the other cars in the race.

What I liked: Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for animation, Disney and Pixar. So, the deck is stacked for me to light almost anything that they release. And honestly, this film was a lot of fun.

Cars 2 is getting criticized for not having the heart that the first film (or all the other Pixar films) had. However, I applaud this choice. Where the first film was a character journey for Lightning McQueen to learn about humility and friendship in a very Doc Hollywood sort of way, this movie doesn’t try to fix a new problem. It’s Mater’s film, and while he has a falling out with friends and learns a little about his own actions, it’s not forcing character growth on him. I prefer this over shoe-horning a rift between characters to manufacture an unnecessary conflict.

Instead, Cars 2 plays out more like a James Bond flick with internal combustion engines. When Bolt came out a couple years ago, I remember commenting that I’d like to see an entire film about the first ten minutes of that movie. We get that with Cars 2. It’s less NASCAR and more retro 60s spy film, and that made it a lot of fun.

Of course, the animation is brilliant, as always, and the action sequences are quite amazing… to the point that it’s easy to forget this is all generated in a computer.

Cars 2 isn’t the best Pixar film out there, but I liked it better than its predecessor, and I had a blast watching it. And so did my kids, and that’s who this movie is really made for.

What I didn’t: There honestly isn’t anything that bothered me about this film. I’m okay with Larry the Cable Guy (which seems to be one of the main criticisms out there). Also, I’m fine with the merchandising of the film. After all, when has Disney ever not been about merchandising? Never. Ever see a Mickey Mouse watch, which dates back to 1933? Or what about Disney Princesses? They’re still milking Snow White and Cinderella. It’s what Disney does. Anyway, as a father of three boys, it’s nice to see some boy-centric cartoon characters to balance out all the girl stuff in the marketplace.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and anyone who thinks Cars is one of the better Pixar films (and believe me, those folks are definitely out there).

Grade: A-

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: R for sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Thomas Lennon

Directed by: Jake Kasdan

What it’s about: Cameron Diaz wants a new set of tits so she can dump her lame teaching job and land a rich husband. So she begs, borrows and steals from her school’s activities in order to fund a boob job. And Jason Segel yells at a kid about LeBron James.

What I liked: There are some very funny moments in this movie. Unfortunately, they either are already spoiled from the many trailers out there, or they come from cast members who aren’t the A-listers. (I’m talking about you, Phyllis Smith!) So you’ll laugh. And you do get to see a nice pair of boobs (which don’t belong to Cameron Diaz… or Phyllis Smith).

What I didn’t: My biggest problem with this movie was how half-baked it was. There’s a great core concept here, which not-so-subtly knocks off the Bad Santa model and drops it into a middle school. However, to make a great comedy with truly awful human beings as the lead characters, the filmmakers have to commit to the end. They can’t cop out and show some redemption half-way through… especially if that redemption itself is half-baked as well.

The funniest lines are either pulled directly from the trailer, or altered slightly to make them a bit more raunchy. But still, the effect is lost. And while Cameron Diaz still is pretty, she’s not quite the one to carry an entire comedy. Jason Segel stumbles into and out of scenes with seemingly no purpose. Even Justin Timberlake, who is actually quite an effective comedic actor, has no spark with his delivery.

On top of the half-hearted delivery and script remnants that reek of studio meddling, the film is littered with logical inconsistencies and nonsensical plot points – including an embarrassingly ineffective rip-off of Adam Sandler comedy bits, from Billy Madison to his songs from SNL. For example, the film takes place outside Chicago, and jokes are consistently made about the town being small. Or the fact that in one scene, Diaz’s character can’t find anywhere on Christmas Day to buy booze. This happens in small towns, but in the whole of Chicago, it’s impossible to believe there’s only one local liquor store and no convenience stores where she can get alcohol.

What I would like to see would be whatever the concept of this movie was in its infancy… before script doctors, Hollywood stars and studio executives got their grubby little fingerprints all over it. Because that would probably have been hilarious.

Who is gonna like this movie: I honestly have no idea.

Grade: C-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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