1. Pain & Gain (Paramount, 3,277 Theaters, 130 Minutes, Rated R): My first thought on how to approach writing the blurb for this film was how awkward a fit Michael Bay was for directing this film. After all, the ads portray it as a wacky crime comedy about a group of bungling bodybuilders who engage in an extortion plot as revenge against a particularly obnoxious client. That is almost a story that Elmore Leonard would write. It was a film that would be better suited being directed by a Barry Sonnenfeld or a Steven Soderbergh, not the master of the explosion.
Then, thanks to the Internet, I was able to read the articles that inspired the film. You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking those links. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you do so. You’ll find a fascinating retelling of the true story that is being dramatized on the screen. What you won’t find is a wacky comedy. Yes, there is bungling. But there is also brutal, inhuman torture of the character Tony Shalhoub represents. There is also a second crime done by the same crew that ends in the murder of two people and their corpses being cut up and sunk in a culvert. The victims of the second crime are listed on IMDB in the cast listing, so that gruesome crime will be addressed in the film.
The true story the poster takes so much pride in stating it is adapted from doesn’t seem like the buoyant fun-filled romp that the trailers make it out to be. That means one of several things. It could mean that Paramount is misrepresenting the film as a goofy comedy instead of a pitch-black comedy/drama the real story would be. This kind of bait and switch is always unctuous.
Or it could be that the Hollywood has taken liberties with the story so it is now a wacky crime caper. This is likely, because Dwayne Johnson’s character appears to be a composite of numerous other accomplices of the Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie characters.
Either way, this is an event where people died. People who were loved and respected by their friends and family were brutally murdered and the bodies underwent the ultimate disrespect after their demise. And while some of the incompetence about the muscle-headed plotters can lend itself to dark humor, you need a master of setting a tone to ensure the film stays respectful to the victims. And Michael Bay is anything but a master of setting the tone, unless it is coming from loud explosions.
2. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate, 2,633 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): You know, you don’t often get casts like this one in your remake of a French farce. I mean, you have four Oscar winners, and Prince Caspian! How could you lose!
This is a remake of France’s 2006 film, Mon Frère Se Marie. The plot consists of a family whose adopted son is getting married. The son has been writing home to his biological mother, a devout Catholic, about the wonderful family he was raised in. Only problem is that the story is a lie. His parents are divorced, his siblings are crazy, and his life is anything but perfect. But his birth mother is coming to the ceremony so the man’s family has to pretend to live up to the idealized version he relayed to his mom.
Now, right off the bat, I can pick a bone about the premise. Not that I am one to judge, but I think a Catholic who got pregnant out of wedlock and gave her son up for adoption should be able to cut a divorced couple a little slack. And the semantics of the son’s lie is troubling for me. Why would he have to address his family life in any sort of detail? And if he did, couldn’t he find something positive about his family to relate? In other words, why did he lie when he could have just not admitted the whole truth?
Anyway, farces usually have plots that work best if you don’t think about them. And this all-star cast could make anything good. Might be a fun film if you just take it at face value and run with the concept.