Shelley Malil

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Ping Pong Playa Review


OK
Movie fans of a certain age -- about 30 to 45 -- have fond memories of a few 1980s HBO mainstays that seemed tailor made for TV. Eddie and the Cruisers, Just One of the Guys, Super Fuzz... charming, silly nuggets that aired endlessly, perfect for our hanging-in-the-basement brains. Whether they were overly earnest or just dumb, they seemed out of place on the big screen. Jessica Yu's Ping Pong Playa feels like it could easily take its place within that pantheon. It could be a big, watchable cable TV star, especially if you're 12 years old.

Independent Film Festival of Boston organizers said this was probably the most family-friendly selection in their six-year history, and they're right. It's a culturally aware comedy that's always light instead of challenging, aiming most laughs at the pre-teen set. To put it bluntly, Ping Pong Playa is as goofy as its title.

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Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Review


Unbearable
Maybe placing the word "comedy" in the title is just another failed attempt at humor by Albert Brooks? Because the writer/director's pseudo-controversial Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is the least funny picture he's ever conceived. Brooks should have found room for the word "duck," because this putrid bomb lays egg after egg after egg.

We begin with Brooks (playing himself) auditioning for a Penny Marshall-directed remake of Harvey. He doesn't get the part, largely because he's "not the next Jimmy Stewart," but he does follow Stewart's lead by heading off to Washington at the request of our government. He's asked to travel to India and Pakistan on a goodwill mission to discover what makes Muslims laugh. Might I suggest he start by looking any place his film isn't screening?

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Just Can't Get Enough Review


Weak
I had no idea there was a big scandal behind the Chippendale's male revue... who knew the whole thing was born from murder, betrayal, and a poor understanding of estate law?

Such is Dave Payne's story in Just Can't Get Enough, a docudrama that looks like it was made for TV -- as long as you don't consider the near-constant nudity (male and female). Reminiscent of Boogie Nights, the film begins as the story of a do-gooder business student (Jonathan Aube) who wants to work at Chippendale's as a manager, but soon he's dancing on stage, losing his girlfriend, and basically watching his life go down the tubes. By the midpoint, the film has become Rated X, the tepid TV biopic about San Francisco strip club pioneers, the Mitchell brothers.

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The 40-Year-Old Virgin Review


Weak

In a welcome change from puerile and stinking-rotten Rob Schneider and David Spade movies, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is a ribald comedy that is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, despite being custom-built around a scene-stealing second-banana who really belongs in small roles.

Deadpan "Daily Show" correspondent Steve Carell, who briefly but memorably upstaged Will Ferrell in "Anchorman" and Jim Carrey in "Bruce Almighty," stars as Andy Stitzer, a king-dork electronics store clerk rapidly approaching middle age and so bereft of social skills that he's never managed to get much past first base with a woman. When his co-workers realize this, watching him fumble to fit in while swapping sex stories during an after-hours poker game, they make it their mission to get the poor guy laid.

Co-written by Carell and director Judd Aptow (creator of TV's "Undeclared" and "Freaks and Geeks"), the plot is perfectly pitched to its star's talent for playing hapless, hopeless twits. Put Carell in a polo shirt, a pair of khakis and a K-Mart windbreaker, and he can garner hardy chuckles with little more than a perplexed stare from his deep-set buggy eyes. He dives headlong into this character, earning cheek-hurting laughs with painfully awkward moments (his pals convince him to get his chest waxed) and giving Andy such an authentic geekdom (his apartment is lined with collectable toys in their original packaging) that the movie's plot hardly feels like a gimmick at all.

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