Peter Abrams

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Old Dogs Review


Unbearable
To call this comedy a disaster is an understatement. It's aggressively awful, and manages to push its worst gags so numbingly off the scale that we're left slack-jawed in disbelief. Amazingly, the cast members just about get out alive.

Charlie and Dan (Travolta and Williams) are old pals and partners as sports publicists. Charlie is a relentless bachelor, teasing Dan about his impulsive, brief Vegas marriage to Vicki (Preston) eight years earlier. What neither of them knows is that Vicki gave birth to Dan's twins (Ella Bleu Travolta and Rayburn), and now she needs him to watch them for two weeks. Nutty antics ensue as these cute kids upset these men's life, dragging them off for a weekend camping trip and of course slowly winning them over in the process.

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The Comebacks Review


Excellent
With their themes of perseverance, courage, and teamwork, sports flicks like Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, and Miracle inspire and encourage millions of moviegoers every year. Conversely, their identical plotlines, stereotyped characters, and obscenely predictable endings inspire some moviegoers to lose their lunch.

I fall into the latter category. That's probably why I'm one of the few film journalists speaking positively about The Comebacks, a riotously hilarious spoof that pokes fun at those annoying inspiring sports dramas. (Editor's Note: Blake, you're on your own on this one. This movie is so bad it made me cry.)

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Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj Review


Terrible
If I was the studio that produced Revenge of the Nerds, I'd be on the phone to a lawyer to file a plagiarism/copyright violation suit against the studio that produced Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, which is as close to a scene-by-scene ripoff as you could possibly imagine.

Check it out: Van Wilder 2 (which does not feature the original film's title character in any way whatsoever, nor does it even take place in the same country) has Taj (Kal Penn), a minor character from the original, of to a British university to continue his education. Here he tries to join the ritzy fraternity, only to be quickly turned away. At his new home, he joins with the campus losers to start their own frat house. The bulk of the film comprises a series of contests on campus with some vague prize going to the winning fraternity. Along the way, Taj steals the girlfriend of his posh rival (Daniel Percival). Naturally, no opportunity to present a naked bosom is passed by.

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Employee Of The Month (2006) Review


Weak
Employee of the Month's main character, thirtysomething box boy Zack (Dane Cook), relishes having a job with the least amount of responsibility. When the Costco-like store where he works hires a new, comely cashier (Jessica Simpson) who has a history for hooking up with the employee of the month, Zack decides to try harder so he can win her affection.

Too bad the movie never follows Zack's example. For 103 minutes, Employee of the Month refuses to go beyond shallow observations and silly slapstick, making for an ordinary outing when that should not be the case. Anyone who has ever worked in retail (or seen Clerks) knows there's a wealth of material for a good comedy. When I managed a used bookstore, a customer argued her case for a lower price by repeatedly stating that she was "a lawyer." At Borders, I had another customer so convinced we carried International Male (we didn't) that he was threatened with police action. Also at Borders, I have never worked with so many people who had visible tattoos, including one who had a small image of a pen and book on her lower back.

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National Lampoon's Van Wilder Review


Unbearable
It's sad that visual jokes about male bodily fluids no longer shock audiences. Now, for films to surprise us, they must include jokes about the fluids of other animals. Van Wilder, the latest installment in the never-ending National Lampoon series, doesn't stop with just a joke, however. It actually contains a scene wherein characters consume dog semen.

Perhaps in a sick, twisted way, the concept of a person unknowingly consuming animal semen could be somewhat amusing. But actually watching a character manually stimulate a canine with oversized testicles is not funny. The scene continues with the character filling donuts with the ejaculation and then feeding the pastries to his peers. The sequence concludes as characters squirt the contents of the food into their mouths. This is a point when gross-out humor simply becomes too gross to qualify as humor.

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Point Break Review


Excellent
It's hard to decide whether Point Break is a really bad good movie or a really good bad movie. On one hand, it boasts thrilling, original action sequences, a tightly woven caper plot, and a cast jam-packed with Hollywood middleweights acting -- and surfing -- their asses off. On the other hand, it also suffers from terrifying leaps of story logic, a vacuous emotional core, and some of the silliest dialogue ever spoken onscreen. It's a Hollywood formula movie at its best and worst. At the center of this conundrum is the greatest acting enigma of the age -- Keanu Reeves. Never has a man acted so poorly, spoken lines so blandly, for the cinematic enjoyment of so many. He churns out unintentionally comic performances in blockbuster after blockbuster, each time raising the question of how exactly he landed the role, and how much worse the movie would be without him. I suppose the answers to these riddles don't matter much, because, no matter how you come down on these weighty issues, when the dust settles, two indisputable points clearly emerge: Point Break is great fun to watch and Reeves was born to play the part of FBI agent Johnny Utah.

The story is your basic high-concept Hollywood action premise. Utah is a young, eager FBI agent assigned to the Los Angeles bank robbery task force. His crusty veteran partner, Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), has been trying for years to bring down a highly professional crew of bank robbers called the Ex-Presidents (known as such because they disguise themselves with novelty masks of former presidents during their robberies). Despite the ridicule of his colleagues, Pappas has long held the belief that the Ex-Presidents are surfers who use the robbery money to fund their presumably lavish lifestyle. So, with nothing else to go on, Pappas and Utah come up with the plan that Utah will go undercover as a surfer in order to infiltrate the beach-loving subculture and bring down the Ex-Presidents.

Continue reading: Point Break Review

Employee Of The Month Review


Weak
Employee of the Month's main character, thirtysomething box boy Zack (Dane Cook), relishes having a job with the least amount of responsibility. When the Costco-like store where he works hires a new, comely cashier (Jessica Simpson) who has a history for hooking up with the employee of the month, Zack decides to try harder so he can win her affection.

Too bad the movie never follows Zack's example. For 103 minutes, Employee of the Month refuses to go beyond shallow observations and silly slapstick, making for an ordinary outing when that should not be the case. Anyone who has ever worked in retail (or seen Clerks) knows there's a wealth of material for a good comedy. When I managed a used bookstore, a customer argued her case for a lower price by repeatedly stating that she was "a lawyer." At Borders, I had another customer so convinced we carried International Male (we didn't) that he was threatened with police action. Also at Borders, I have never worked with so many people who had visible tattoos, including one who had a small image of a pen and book on her lower back.

Continue reading: Employee Of The Month Review

Wedding Crashers Review


Weak
Good comedies get by on amusing concepts, while great comedies sustain the laughter long after they've delivered their one-line pitch. Wedding Crashers belongs in the former category. It rides its amusing premise like gangbusters for one solid act, but overextends itself the minute it leaves the comfy confines of its smart setup.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, playing themselves, are John and Jeremy - lifelong friends who spend the wedding season crashing strangers' receptions for the free booze and vulnerable women. They have an angle for every party and work the room like politicians at a fund-raising breakfast. Watching them attack someone else's special day with reckless abandon provides the most fun I've ever had at a wedding, my own not included.

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On the Line Review


Grim
Here's a test I use when I review a kid friendly movie like On the Line, starring Lance Bass and Joey Fatone of the teen pop group *Nsync. If I took my young cousin to the movie, would there be something in it for me -- subtle humor, a funny supporting character, nice scenery?

On the Line does have a few little things that old folks (people who remember Cheers during its network run) can latch onto. Dave Foley, a great straight man, has a sizable role. There are lots of nice shots of Chicago. And Al Green sings a few songs.

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Denial Review


Weak
Often depressing and banal, this "comedy" occasionally manages to rise above its subject matter (theory: manogomy is impossible) to be lighthearted and entertaining. Silverman and Dempsey make for an incredible duel of bad acting. Fortunately, the ladies save the show. Sort of.

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Tangled Review


Grim
Hey, it's the first lame direct-to-DVD movie of 2003!

Tangled purports to describe the complicated love triangle among three college kids: She's All That hottie Rachael Leigh Cook, mysterious Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and slack-jawed yokel Shawn Hatosy (Outside Providence). Tough choices all around, for sure.

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She's All That Review


Weak
Well, as it turns out, she's not all that. She's like half that. Maybe less. I'd say 30 percent that.

70 percent crap.

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Pay It Forward Review


OK
The very idea behind Pay It Forward -- that when someone does an enormous good deed for you should pay it "forward" to three other, unsuspecting persons -- requires what is described in the film as "an extreme act of faith in the goodness of people."

It's safe to say that your enjoyment of the film is bound by this same rule. Dyed-in-the-wool film critics like myself have been down this road once or twice before, and the enormous leap of faith it takes to convince oneself that, deep down, even "bad" people are good makes me want to reach for my DVD of A Clockwork Orange.

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Serendipity Review


Good
I must admit I'm going to be a bit biased in my review of the new romantic comedy Serendipity, because that also defines how I met my current girlfriend. The magic and mystery of our fated encounter is also embodied in the quirkiness and freshness of the very funny and very romantic Serendipity. I am not a big fan of the romantic comedy genre, but something drew me to this film. Maybe it was the casting of the underrated Jeremy Piven in a supporting role, and the hilarious Eugene Levy. Maybe it was my hope that John Cusack would get the redemption he justly deserves after such crap as High Fidelity, Con Air, and Pushing Tin. But maybe it was because I feel as giddy as a school kid right now with this whole romantic thing currently in my life.

The story of Serendipity is simple. Two people, John Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale, looking ever so hot), have a chance encounter over a pair of gloves -- with Buck Henry smack dab in the middle. Charmed beyond repair, these two knuckleheads grab a sundae together at a café called Serendipity, talk about that irresponsible thing called fate and the avenues it leads people down, and spend a few hours at the local ice skating rink. But with each of them already involved with other parties, Sara has John write his name and number on a $5 bill and she writes her name and number on a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. Sara declares that if this "thing" -- let's just call it love -- is destined to happen, fate will bring them together in the future.

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The Wedding Planner Review


Grim
Ah, welcome to San Francisco, the place I call home. It's a city of exorbitant housing costs where we're facing two years of electricity blackouts, and it's home to some of the most ridiculously magical romances ever conceived. (See also: The Bachelor.)

In what is either a sassy updating of the fable of marriage or a vicious lambasting of its sanctity, depending on your point of view, The Wedding Planner presents us with Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey as an unlikely pair who somehow manage to get together -- against all odds, of course.

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