Tag Archives: Ed Helms

Chappaquiddick Movie Review

“We tell the truth. Or at least our version of it.”

This is perhaps the central line uttered by Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick. It recalls the events that took place in the summer of 1969 that resulted in the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) with the Senator at the wheel. This is a tale of power potentially interrupted as Ted is the last living brother of America’s royal family. Unfolding just months after Bobby’s assassination during his Presidential campaign, the youngest Kennedy is seen as a contender for the highest office in the land in 1972.

His brother’s death indirectly leads to the film’s events as Ted organizes a reunion of the “Boiler Room Girls”, a group of female staffers that worked on Bobby’s bid for the White House. New Jersey native Mary Jo is one of them and her fateful car ride with Ted becomes the subject of endless speculation on the same weekend where Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. The accident isn’t reported by the world-famous driver until eight hours following its occurrence. The screenplay from Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan hypothesizes that Kennedy’s truth about it is indeed his own, with details like alcohol consumption conveniently omitted and a concussion and needless neck brace advantageously added.

The deception extends to patriarch Joseph Kennedy Sr. (Bruce Dern). He can’t speak due to a debilitating stroke, but he can still mobilize a crisis control team at short notice. This includes former Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara (Clancy Brown) and family speechwriter Ted Sorensen (Taylor Nichols). The conscience of the piece is Kennedy cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), who accompanies Ted and Massachusetts District Attorney friend Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to rescue the deceased passenger when it’s far too late. Gargan is a member of the Kennedy clan, though he doesn’t fully recognize the extent they will go to in protecting their brand.

Any movie recounting the days of Chappaquiddick and its aftermath will be looked at through a political lens. Ardent supporters of its central character will likely take issue with some theories put forth here, including Ted’s original thought to claim Mary Jo was driving. So while the leanings of some viewers could be tainted by that, Chappaquiddick is primarily a procedural about a tragedy caused by someone with extraordinary influence. When Kennedy goes to the small island’s office of the police chief to give a hastily written statement, he immediately enters and sits behind the chief’s desk in his chair. It’s a minor detail, but not an insignificant one in showing the power structure involved here.

Chappaquiddick doesn’t shed much unique light on the well-researched event, but it’s held together by a strong performance from Clarke. His Ted is one in constant conflict and not just with the details of the drowning. He is a man of apparent destiny whether he wants it or not or whether his father even believes he deserves it. A sharp turn derails those ambitions to a certain degree. In this version of it, the filmmakers don’t let Kennedy off the hook.

*** (out of four)

Tag Box Office Prediction

Improbably based on a true story, the comedy Tag hits theaters next weekend. Based on a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the film focuses on a group of pals who engage in a long-term version of the kids game. Stars include Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brian Dennehy, and Lil Rel Howery. It marks the directorial debut of Jeff Tomsic.

The ads hype the “actually based on real stuff” angle, but I felt the trailer could’ve been a bit stronger. I’m not confident this holds any significant breakout potential. The Warner Bros release would likely love the achieve the $17 million debut of this spring’s Game Night and that might be the generous ceiling here. I’d say even with the cast of familiar faces, it doesn’t have the relative star power or laugh out loud promo materials. And I wouldn’t count Renner as this isn’t the genre he’s known for… see The House from a year ago.

Outside of the Hangover franchise, Helms has had a rough road recently as Father Figures was a dud and even his Vacation reboot fell a bit shy of $60 million three summers back. I’ll project this reaches low double digits to mid teens for a so-so showing. As we await the blockbuster comedic pic of this season, I have a hunch Tag is not it.

Tag opening weekend prediction: $13.4 million

For my Incredibles 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/05/incredibles-2-box-office-prediction/

For my Superfly prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/07/superfly-box-office-prediction/

Chappaquiddick Box Office Prediction

Arriving in theaters a little later than anticipated, historical drama Chappaquiddick debuts next weekend. Directed by John Curran, the film recounts the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted Kennedy’s role in it. Jason Clarke plays Kennedy with Kate Mara as Kopechne. Supporting players include Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffigan, Taylor Nichols, and Clancy Brown.

The pic receives its first screening last fall at the Toronto Film Festival. Reviews were mostly positive and it stands at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, reaction was muted enough that Entertainment Studios moved it from its December 2017 awards qualifying run to this April roll out.

Chappaquiddick likely faces a tough road ahead. Premiering on approximately 1500 screens, its only real hope to appeal to older moviegoers who recall the events from nearly a half century ago. I’ll project that only gets this to $2-$3 million.

Chappaquiddick opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million

For my A Quiet Place prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/27/a-quiet-place-box-office-prediction/

For my Blockers prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/28/blockers-box-office-prediction/

For my A Miracle Season prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/30/the-miracle-season-box-office-prediction/

A Futile and Stupid Gesture Movie Review

David Wain’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture centers on a Golden Age of comedy while attempting to tell a conventional biopic story line somewhat unconventionally. At times, it succeeds. In others, it strains itself. The overall effect is a retelling of moments that led millions of us to some of our biggest laughs in print and onscreen, even if the humor here is hit or miss.

The film’s central figure is Doug Kenney (Will Forte) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio (as he constantly reminds us). He grew up in that affluent Ohio suburban setting in the 1950s with uppity parents and a family tragedy that seems to inform his feeling of self-worth. However, he’s got one whip smart sense of humor and it translates to his time at Harvard. He partners with fellow humorist – the ironically pipe smoking Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and they excel at producing the “Lampoon”, the university’s premier comedy publication. While this Ivy League duo could pretty much get any job, Doug convinces Henry to expand the magazine nationally. Hence the “National Lampoon” and the treasure trove of history that follows.

Kenney and Beard’s venture turns out to be a runaway success that provides a platform for brilliant writers such as Michael O’Donoghue and P.J. O’Rourke and performers Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to shine. It’s obvious to say that “Saturday Night Live” never would have existed without Kenney and Beard and that’s acknowledged here. Some of these later famous faces are given seconds of screen time and others considerably more. In a movie about the advent of ironic comedy in many respects, there’s some casting irony here. Joel McHale is Chevy Chase, an actor who dealt with the well-documented difficult nature of Chevy himself on the set of “Community”. Martin Mull is the narrator of Gesture as the older man who Kenney himself never became. The screenplay gleefully acknowledges the many clichés that come with making a biopic. The drug use, strained romantic relationships, and family drama are presented here, but with a winking eye.

The picture often plays like a greatest hits of Kenney’s accomplishments. His contributions to the big screen were short but monumental with National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack. The screenplay doesn’t linger long on either and perhaps it could have benefited with more minutes spent on the party atmosphere of the former and the coke fueled chaos of the latter.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is clearly made by a team who reveres its central subject. It doesn’t delve too far into Kenney’s considerable issues in an attempt to keep the tone fairly light. Yet it also doesn’t fully enjoy the opportunities to spend time with these young upstarts who would become comedy legends. That creates a sometimes unwieldy mix. Forte certainly impresses in the lead and there’s a few memorable supporting turns, including Matt Walsh as the magazine’s beleaguered financier and Ed Helms in a brief, but devastatingly biting scene as interviewer Tom Snyder.

There are segments of Gesture that remind us to thank our lucky stars for the existence of the people chronicled here. It doesn’t fully succeed as a stand-alone movie that ironically apes the biopic genre that it finds itself in, though it tries hard. In fact, it sometimes tries a little too hard to be ironic. The makers of the “Lampoon” shown here probably would have known how to make it a little funnier and let the serious moments be a tad more subtly rewarding.

**1/2 (out of four)

Father Figures Box Office Prediction

Looking to tickle the funny bones of audiences over the long holiday weekend, Father Figures debuts next Friday. The pic casts Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as brothers searching for their biological pops after mom Glenn Close informs them it could be several men. J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, and Terry Bradshaw (playing himself) are among them. Katt Williams, June Squibb, and Harry Shearer are included in the supporting cast with Lawrence Sher directing.

Originally titled Bastards, the comedy was originally slated by Warner Bros. for a November 2016 opening before a delay until January 2017 and finally this Christmastime release. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence with the multiple push backs.

Figures has plenty of competition and of the five wide releases premiering over the weekend, it will likely place fifth among them. Its best hope would be to replicate what Why Him? (last year’s Christmas entry in the genre) did with $15.5 million over the four-day frame.

That could be wishful thinking. I’ll predict this only reaches high single digits to low double digits for its roll out.

Father Figures opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/11/jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle-box-office-prediction/

For my Pitch Perfect 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/pitch-perfect-3-box-office-prediction/

For my The Greatest Showman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/12/the-greatest-showman-box-office-prediction/

For my Downsizing prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/12/13/downsizing-box-office-prediction/

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Box Office Prediction

Dreamworks is the first studio with an animated feature for the summer season as Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie hits screens next weekend. Based on a series of well-known childrens books by Dav Pilkey, the film features the voices of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, and Thomas Middleditch. The screenplay comes from Nicholas Stoller, who made last year’s under performing Storks. 

Underpants is certainly more of a question mark than some of the other animated tales this season – namely Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3, both of which arrive in June. That said, Dreamworks has a mostly solid history of producing hits. 2014’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman debuted to $32 million, 2015’s Home exceeded expectations with $52 million, Trolls made $46 million last fall, and The Boss Baby opened to $50 million in March, outpacing its projections.

While I don’t see this effort getting past $40 million (though it could happen), I believe a high 20s to maybe low 30s debut is in the cards as the studio likely hopes for a sequel (based on the title).

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie opening weekend prediction: $27.4 million

For my Wonder Woman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/05/25/wonder-woman-box-office-prediction/

Love the Coopers Box Office Prediction

The Christmas season hits the box office in mid November as the holiday themed  Love the Coopers opens next Friday. With an all-star cast including John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Arkin, the family affair will look to cash in with audiences looking for some Xmas cheer.

Its prospects are a bit sketchy. Trailers and TV spots for Coopers have done little to make it look like another run of the mill big ensemble experience. Its best hope is to bring in a female audience looking for a diversion from James Bond, which should still be performing like gang busters in weekend #2.

That might be enough to help it reach double digits, though I don’t believe that’s guaranteed. I could actually see this debuting in line with The Family Stone, a similarly themed comedy which opened 10 years ago. Solid word of mouth could push it to perform in subsequent weekends yet that remains to be seen.

Love the Coopers opening weekend prediction: $11.3 million

For my The 33 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/06/the-33-box-office-prediction/

For my My All-American prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/11/07/my-all-american-box-office-prediction/