Sorry to Bother You Movie Review

In one sense, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is conventional with its pro-labor and anti-corporate message. How it gets there is wildly unconventional, often original, occasionally hilarious, and clearly from a new filmmaker making his voice and views heard. Riley comes from the world of hip hop and his political perspectives are unmistakable in short tracks. With nearly two hours to work with here, his words can’t possibly be as tight and controlled. This film is messy, but rarely a mess. Like the best music in the genre, it’s not easily forgotten. Similar to a bass line or lyric that won’t escape you, moments here have the same effect.

LaKeith Stanfield is Oakland native Cassius Green, who’s struggling to find a job that pays the bills. He lives in a garage with his artsy girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). He owes lots of back rent to his uncle (Terry Crews) that owns the property. While the Golden State area looks current, the picture is set in an alternate reality. There’s a massive conglomerate that goes by WorryFree. We see ads on TV that promote a life of not paying bills and free housing. The catch? A lifetime contract of servitude. It’s absolutely an allegory for the director’s view of today’s workforce. While WorryFree seemingly appeals to many, this is not so for Cassius, Detroit, and lots of protesters.

Instead, Cassius finds work as a telemarketer and he initially finds it mundane and challenging. That is until a coworker (Danny Glover) imparts his secret of success. That recipe is using his “white voice”. Those voices are provided by recognizable faces for main characters including David Cross, Lily James, and Patton Oswalt. Cassius suddenly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder once the modulation happens. It leads him to gain the designation of “Power Caller”. That means moving to a swanky floor where only the Caucasian voice is allowed to be used. This also means he becomes a scab to his fellow workers and to Detroit. His financial rise soon puts him in touch with the leaders of WorryFree and its CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).

Once that partnership is forged, Sorry to Bother You veers into genuinely unexpected directions (trust me on this one). Riley, however, never strays too far from the overall message. He’s got a fine cast to deliver it. Stanfield (best known for his supporting role in Get Out) is terrific and we’ve certainly never seen Hammer like this before. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments. One involves a passive aggressive argument Cassius has with friend and coworker Salvador (Jermaine Fowler). Another pertains to Steve’s unexpected reaction to Cassius’s reaction when a key plot point is revealed.

When we get to the third act, its unconventional tone gallops into an entirely new gear. It’s not totally successful, but I found myself admiring Riley’s kitchen sink approach to it. For viewers looking for something that’s often remarkably different, Bother hits those notes with enough frequency for a solid recommendation.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Sorry to Bother You

This Friday, the satire Sorry to Bother You debuts in limited release after receiving many raves at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The pic is written and directed by hip hop musician Boots Riley with a cast led by Lakeith Stanfield (best known for TV’s “Atlanta” and last year’s Get Out), Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, and Armie Hammer.

Bother has the potential to be a sleeper this summer. As mentioned, reviews are strong and it stands at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Could Oscar voters notice it? It could be a long shot but Stanfield and Hammer in particular were acknowledged by critics. Many feel the latter was slighted last year for his supporting work in Call Me by Your Name.

Where the film could stand a legitimate chance for a nod could be in Original Screenplay- an award Jordan Peele won months ago for Get Out.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Expendables 3 Box Office Prediction

Sylvester Stallone and his geriatric all-star group of action icons are back once again in The Expendables 3, out Friday. This franchise has been a consistent one this decade with the first and second installments being released on the same mid-August weekend in 2010 and 2012. However, there is a discouraging trend with the series. While the original took in $34 million opening weekend with an overall $103M domestic haul, the follow-up couldn’t keep pace. The Expendables 2 made $28 million out of the gate with a final $85M gross. Stallone hasn’t seen any of his other recent projects perform well and it’s easy to see where #3 could continue the downward performance of the franchise.

It must be said that Stallone’s ability to get genre stars on board is impressive. The Expendables 3 features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Kelsey Grammer. However, I don’t feel all that star power will translate to a very impressive debut. An opening on par with the last entry’s $28M seems unlikely, though I think the series has just enough juice (not a steroid reference) to get it past $20M.

The Expendables 3 opening weekend prediction: $21.5 million

For my Let’s Be Cops prediction, click here:

For my The Giver prediction, click here:

Blended Box Office Prediction

While many filmgoers will choose the X-Men for their Memorial Day weekend entertainment, Warner Bros. attempts some counterprogramming with the rom com Blended which reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The pair already has a couple of box office hits under their belt together with 1998’s The Wedding Singer ($80.2M domestic gross) and 2004’s 50 First Dates ($120.9M domestic gross).

Costarring Joel McHale, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, and Shazaam himself Shaquille O’Neal, Blended seems to be flying a bit under the radar with all the blockbusters such as Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past in the marketplace. Sandler’s pictures have been a mixed bag as of late. While last summer’s Grown Ups 2 was a hit with a $41.5M opening, recent pics Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy have disappointed with respective openings of $25M and $13.4M. The inclusion of Barrymore with Sandler could help, as both of their previous efforts are well-regarded. However, trailers and TV spots for Blended have been rather unimpressive in my view.

If Blended managed to reach what Sandler’s last romantic comedy opened at, Warner Bros. should consider that a success. That would be Just Go With It, which debuted with $30.5M in February 2011. Blended will have the advantage of a four day Memorial Day weekend tally and yet I feel it will struggle to gain major traction with audiences. I’m predicting a holiday opening in the quarter century range is the likeliest scenario.

Blended four day opening weekend prediction: $24.9 million

For my X-Men: Days of Future Past prediction, click here: