REVIEW: THE GOOD PLACE – SEASON 2

Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
William Jackson Harper (Paterson)
Jameela Jamil (T4 on The Beach)
D’Arcy Carden (Other People)
Manny Jacinto (The Romeo Selection)
Ted Danson (Cheers)

Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)

 

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tiya Sircar (The Vampire Diaries)
Marc Evan Jackson (22 Jump Street)
Luke Guldan (Gossip Girl)
Maribeth Monroe (Workaholics)
Leslie Grossman (Popular)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator)
Dax Shepard (Employee of The Month)
Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids)
Anna Khaja (Yes Man)

The comedy began last fall with Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) awakening after a humiliating death to find herself welcomed to heaven, despite having led a highly un-angelic life. With the help of her “soul mate” Chidi (William Jackson Harper), who was a philosopher on Earth before he was hit by a falling air conditioner, Eleanor eventually figured out the trouble with this paradise. The Good Place, it turns out, is actually The Bad Place. Or a bad place. Michael (Ted Danson), its seemingly kindly administrator, is in fact an infernal bureaucrat beta-testing a new way of tormenting souls by convincing them that they’ve gotten an eternal reward they don’t deserve.Ted Danson in The Good Place (2016)Eleanor’s guess ruins the scheme, and Michael ended the season by wiping his subjects’ memories and rebooting the scenario. Season 2, premiering Wednesday before moving to Thursdays, begins again at the beginning, after Eleanor’s end. It’s unusual for any series to so deliberately blow up its premise at the end of one season, particularly a season as delightful, promising and weirdly inventive as last year’s. (It burned so much plot that the return episode begins with a two-minute “Previously on …” segment.) But over the course of season 2, the Bad Place version of “The Good Place” proves it’s still able to surprise, while staying rooted in ideas that make it more than the sum of its twists.Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (2016)The first season had shades of “Groundhog Day,” another comedy that was a Trojan horse for philosophical inquiry. What does it mean to be good? Is it innate? Is it about intention or action? Is it a learned behavior, something that you can achieve, like physical fitness, by repeating a set of exercises? The new season parallels “Groundhog Day” more directly, by having Michael reboot his experimental hell from scratch. As he refines his torments, the show further unpeels the characters. Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (2016)

For the overintellectualizing Chidi, hell is being forced to make tough decisions. For the conspicuous do-gooder Tahani (Jameela Jamil), it’s having her righteous self-perception challenged. For slacker-bro Jason (Manny Jacinto), it’s having to spend eternity as Jianyu, the pious, silent monk whose identity he’s been given in a switch-up Michael engineered. Michael Schur, the creator of “The Good Place,” is otherwise known for “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” sitcoms grounded with a specific sense of place. The afterlife in “The Good Place,” on the other hand, is deliberately artificial. To make it feel lived-in (or died-in) takes not just imagination but a pile of acting talent. That Mr. Danson can hit any pitch a writer can throw at him is no surprise. Still, what he did in the climactic Season 1 finale scene was stunning. After Eleanor guessed Michael’s ruse, he smiled a broad smile that began warm and turned diabolical. He reverse-polarized his character, and thus the entire series, in one facial expression.Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)The new episodes show that this bespoke afterlife has endless possibilities for growth. The show is now also a dysfunctional-workplace comedy, for instance, as Michael begs for one more chance from his harsh bosses, who prefer the old-fashioned fire-and-hammers version of torment. There’s also a meta-theatrical element to the season, since The Bad Place in “The Good Place” is, itself, a show being rebooted. This story line spotlights Tiya Sircar, as the evil spirit who in season one played Real Eleanor (the person whose place in heaven Eleanor was told she was accidentally given) and is now assigned to be Denise, the pizza-shop owner in Michael’s new scenario. Denise is a good part, with a great back story,” Michael assures her, in the placating tones of a showrunner managing the talent. “You have a cat, and that’s cool!” This season’s switch-up means a lot of complication to ask a sitcom audience to follow, which may be why surreal romantic-workplace-showbiz-eschatological comedies do not have a long track record on network TV.Through its thrilling first season, “The Good Place” felt like it was always an episode or two from derailing, but it didn’t. The second season, premised on Michael’s having painted himself into a narrative corner, risks painting itself in one too. When Michael’s expedient is taken over by Vicky, he enlists Eleanor and the others to help him stop her, eventually learning to like them and begins to help them obtain a chance at the real Good Place. Seeing Michael change and become a character we can all root for wa sa nice change of pace for the show.Kristen Bell, Maya Rudolph, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)There has been no shortage of wonderful, hopeful moments on The Good Place, but one ever-present, bleak truth has never been gone away: it’s hard to get to the real good place because the threshold to qualify as a truly good person is ridiculously high. And while the show’s season two finale, “Somewhere Else,” presented how the world makes it almost impossible to be a good person, it also gave us our best hope for how we can be anyway. Most of us would fail to qualify for “The Good Place.” Tahani raised 60 billion dollars for charity and helped a tremendous amount of people, but that didn’t matter because she did it for selfish reasons. Chidi spent a life obsessing over what it means to be a good person and tried to put those lessons into practice, but none of that mattered because his personal failings undid all of that. And last week, when they all showed how much genuine personal growth they’ve made, the Judge said none of that mattered. “Better” isn’t good enough, only “good” is good enough. Michael thinks the whole system for judging human lives might be broken, and he’s probably right and that’s not fair, but we know what Sean said about “fair.” You want to be a good person you better the right kind of really good person.the-good-place-episode-112-main(1)After Eleanor went back to Earth (or at the very least a simulation of it) for a literal real life test, we saw how the world did everything it could to keep her from being her best self. Working hard, telling the truth, and being selfless led to lawsuits, lost friends, and diarrhea, and that’s because life is full of bad people. Everything around us–greed, selfishness, apathy, anger–fights against our desire to be better people, and the harder we try to be good the more pointless it can seem. When things seems to be easier the worse you are as a person, why make things harder on yourself by being good? Especially when it isn’t clear there is any “moral dessert” to gain, in this life or the next? The Good Place has given empathetic reasons why someone might be bad before, like when we learned about Eleanor and Tahani’s parents. That didn’t let them off the hook though, they still were still earmarked for the bad place. Because no matter how much our parents, friends, or the entire world sucks, there’s no excuse for giving in to it. Ultimately we are responsible for ourselves.02-good-place-questions_w710_h473So basically to reach a paradise we don’t actually know exists and avoid eternal damnation we have to make our lives as hard as possible in a world that fights our attempts to be good people while rewarding mother forking shirtheads. And even then it might not be enough. When you put it like that it seems stupid not to just say “fork this?” and not leave a note. “Somewhere Else” was the show’s most hopeful episode yet. Michael’s nudge (Ted Danson bartending!) to Eleanor, by reciting her own words back to her, was a gorgeous moment, but the way his question about “what do we owe to each other?” pushed her to seek out Chidi–who had just kissed her at the Judge’s–was the show’s most beautiful scene ever. Because no matter how terrible things are, no matter how futile our attempts to overcome that reality, there is one idea that can help us be the people we want–and need–to be: “we are not in this alone.” All of the progress Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi, Jason, and Michael have made was only possible because they supported one another and selflessly gave of themselves. They aren’t good people on their own, but they make each other good people.the-good-place-73-1200x640It was a stunning season finale because it provided real, tangible hope. Yeah, it’s really, really hard to be truly good, almost impossible even, but we can do it if we stop worrying about ourselves and worry about one another. And if that seems like a battle you’re fighting alone, you’re not.

 

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REVIEW: EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH

CAST

Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Tim Bagley (The Mask)
Andy Dick (2 Broke Girls)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Harland Williams (Wag The Dog)
Efren Ramirez (Gamer)
Danny Woodburn (Bones)

For years, Zack Bradley (Dane Cook) has been working at the local “Super Club” as a box-boy. He lives with his grandmother and spends his free time with co-workers Lon Neilson (Andy Dick), Iqbal Raji (Brian George), and Russell Porpis-Gunders (Harland Williams). Despite his “slacker” like ways he is kind-hearted, popular and supportive. His coworker Vince Downey (Dax Shepard) earns the Employee of the Month title for the 17th time in a row. Vince is egotistical and rude towards his co-workers, mainly his box boy Jorge Mecico (Efren Ramirez), who he berates constantly. His co-workers dislike him, but he is oblivious to this. When new cashier Amy Renfro (Jessica Simpson) is hired, Zack and Vince fall for her and compete for her affection. Zack is told that Amy slept with the “Employee of the Month” at her last job, so he decides to win the title. Amy has dinner with Vince, but is repulsed when he puts the move on her. Vince doesn’t realize how Amy feels, thinking they had a good kiss and continues pursuing her. Zack steps up his act and becomes a harder worker, giving Vince competition for the title. He also goes on a date with Amy, which takes place entirely in Super Club.Within a few days, with Vince still winning the daily star, Zack realizes that getting “Employee of the Month” is not as easy as he thought. With Iqbal’s encouragement, Zack finds his groove and to Vince’s horror, wins the star the next day. A war of attrition begins, as Vince tries everything he can think of to derail Zack’s string of stars, even breaking into his house to reset the clocks and cause him to be late. Zack barely arrives on time and Vince’s attempt to sabotage him is unsuccessful. Zack takes Iqbal’s shift on the day of a championship slow-pitch game against rival chain Maxi-Mart. However, he leaves to play in the game and Iqbal is fired. Frustrated at Zack’s new attitude, his friends tell him he is turning into Vince and feel his attempt at getting the title is a result of trying to have sex with Amy. Amy overhears the conversation and is disgusted at Zack for his true intentions. Amy tells Zack her last boyfriend, who was Employee of the Month, was conniving, conceited and impolite which was why she requested a transfer because she could not stand being with him.157_4At month’s end, Zack and Vince are tied. On the day of the tie-breaking competition, Zack quits, gets Iqbal his job back and tells him he took responsibility for what happened, making a heartfelt apology to Lon, Iqbal, and Russell. Zack tells them he plans to win the competition, not for recognition or to make an impression, but for pride. When the store manager is about to announce Zack’s resignation, Zack, Lon, Iqbal, and Russell show up claiming Zack never filed the resignation papers. It is revealed Russell bribed the human resources manager with a broken Butterfinger. Zack tries to reconcile with Amy, giving a heart-felt apology and telling her that no matter what, he is a better man because of her. Despite Vince’s protests, the competition, for the fastest checkout, is held. The Employee of the Month Award will be granted to the person who finishes the task first.Employee-of-the-Month-dax-shepard-31245685-2249-1500Vince beats Zack by seconds, but during the award ceremony, Semi (Marcello Thedford), the security guard, brings a surveillance video of the competition that shows Vince throwing items behind his back and onto the belt without scanning them. Vince denies the allegations of under-ringing. The store’s assistant manager, who had just completed an audit of the tills used in the competition, proved the surveillance video was right about Vince giving customers free things and has been doing this for 18 months, costing the store thousands of dollars. When security tape footage is shown and his register receipt totals proved he cost the store money, Vince is fired and required to wear a police tracking device in lieu of jail time. Zack ends up winning the competition having the second most points and Amy’s love. Six weeks after Vince is terminated from Super Club, he is on probation and working at Maxi-Mart, a rival store. Jorge finally learns to assert himself and treats Vince the same as he was treated by Vince. He is still willing to give Vince a ride to the bus stop, knowing that this would put Vince outside the range of his probation leg-tracker.290449-16583-clp-950Great movie, good laughs! I’d watch it again. There are some little twists to some parts of the movies and the end is alright, could be better though. Over all a very funny movie.

REVIEW: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: 10 YEARS LATER

CAST

Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
H. Jon Benjamin (22 Jump Street)
Michael Ian Black (Wedding Daze)
Janeane Garofalo (Dogma)
Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
A. D. Miles (Role Models)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy)
Amy Poehler (Free Birds)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Marisa Ryan (Cold Hearts)
Molly Shannon (Bad Teacher)
Michael Showalter (The Ten)
Adam Scott (Krmapus)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Samm Levine (Inglourious Basterds)
David Wain (Wanderlust)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Paul Scheer (Piranha)
Josh Charles (The Ex)
Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters)
Rich Sommer (Grilfriend’s Day)
Eric Nenninger (Jeepers Creepers II)
John Early (Bad Neighbors 2)
Chris Pine (star Trek)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Mark Feuerstein (Once and Again)
Sarah Burns (Married)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men)
Jai Courtney (Divergent)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)
Joey Bragg (Fred 3)
Anne-Marie Johnson (Suicide Dolls)
Chris Redd (empire)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Maya Erskine (Betas)
Marlo Thomas (LOL)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)

wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-paul-rudd-marguerite-moreau“Andy, you are 26 years old. What is wrong with you! When are you going to grow up? We can’t be teenagers forever.” That above quote is said to Paul Rudd’s Andy Fleckner as a simple gag. It pokes fun at the actual age of the actors that are playing these characters, but therein also lies the central “flaw” of Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. As fun as all of these camp shenanigans may be, these people can’t just continue doing this forever. However, this is at least something that the series is well aware of and embraces wholeheartedly. It’s bonkers that Ten Years Later even happened at all. One prequel season was a surprising gift in itself. This is the extra marshmallow in the s’more. If last season was the unexpected reunion tour, then this is the sloppy, drunken after party that follows. Sure, it’s less polished, but it’s all dessert anyway.wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-episode-4-lunch-knife-renata-alyssa-milano-michael-ian-black-review-guide-listMuch like First Day of Camp, this season takes this eclectic group of campers and puts them back into Camp Firewood, only now it’s ten years later as opposed to the beginning of their adventure. First Day of Camp does some glorious dot connecting to David Wain’s 2001 cult classic film, while also pulling off deep inside baseball jokes, like the introduction of Jim Stansel or seeing the birth of the anthem, “Higher and Higher.” Obviously with this new season taking place after everything, there’s little to few dots that need to be connected now, which as a result does lead to the trivial feeling that’s sometimes present through this season. Make no mistake, this is all undeniably a great time, but there’s not the same sort of satisfaction to be derived from the material this time around.ajh6scyuze0gpcrgcjueWhile the last installment was about building connections, this one is very much about breaking them to pieces and starting anew, which is only fitting considering this season revolves around Camp Firewood being literally torn down. The fun is in seeing the radical places that everyone has ended up rather than marveling at their clever origin stories. In that sense, the first episode spends the majority of its time simply introducing everyone and catching up the audience.untitledIn an eight-episode season this might feel like a bit of a waste, but with dozens of characters, what are they supposed to do here? The only real answer it to have a longer season, but with First Day of Camp also being a mere eight episodes, that seems to be the pattern that these guys are following. The season certainly could have used a few more episodes this time though. Similarly, this season—more than last season—really feels like it should be watched in one sitting like a long movie. Doing so would even help some of the material flow a little better, too. None of the many storylines feel rushed and everything is given enough time to breathe. It’s a real delicate balancing act that never shows its hand. The characters deal with the insecurity over who they’ve turned into through the years, however everyone is going through this same problem. At their core, they’re still those ridiculous teenagers from summer camp, and so are these actors, no matter how old they are. That’s sort of the point here.wethotmamericansummer-10yearslater-adamscottTen Years Later also gleefully wallows in glorious ‘90s jokes to make sure that the audience never forgets exactly when this season is taking place. It’s also probably the only place you’re going to hear Laura San Giacomo get brought up any time soon. First Day of Camp had this same sort of fun with the ‘80s, but this season is much more meta than the material’s ever been before. There’s also supernatural weirdness afoot too because of course there is. Elements like hidden nuclear fallout shelters entering the mix are so crazy, yet oddly fitting. This universe slowly stretching its boundaries has allowed for insane developments to seem plausible.1498150156458Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later might spend a little too much time roasting on the campfire, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable endeavor that showcases a bunch of exemplary comedians who have now been laughing together for decades.

REVIEW: WITHOUT A PADDLE

CAST

Seth Green (Family Guy)
Matthew Lillard (Scream)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Antony Starr (Banshee)
Danielle Cormack (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Burt Reynolds (Driven)
Liddy Holloway (Hercules: TLJ)
Bruce Phillips (Power Rangers RPM)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Abraham Benrubi (Buffy: TVS)
Rachel Blachard (Snakes on a Plane)
Christina Moore (Delta Farce)
Susan Brady (Blood Crime)

Twelve years after graduating from high school, three friends, Jerry, Dan, and Tom, find out that their childhood friend Billy has died in a parasailing accident. After the funeral, they revisit the group’s old tree-house and find a map leading to D. B. Cooper’s lost treasure, which Billy had apparently been working on for his entire life. Dan takes a break from his job as a doctor and joins Jerry and Tom on a camping trip to find the treasure. They take a canoe down the river and eventually stop on the riverside for the night. They discover that they forgot to bring food, so Tom goes out to catch some fish. However, the activity attracts a grizzly bear to their position, and the bear chases the group into a tree. In the morning, the group find all of their gear has been ripped up and completely destroyed by the bear.

The trio takes off into the river but are unable to read the map, causing them to go the wrong way. They fall off of a waterfall, and while they survive, their canoe is destroyed. They venture into the woods with a compass and find themselves at a pot farm where two farmers, Dennis and Elwood, mistake them for thieves and start shooting at them. They escape, burning the pot garden down in the process. This enrages the farmers, who decide to hunt them down and kill them. Later, far into the forest the trio meets two hippie girls, Flower and Butterfly, who treat them in their tree. Using a radio the farmers find them, but the hippie girls drop paper bags full of feces at the farmers to distract them while the trio escapes. They are caught by a mountain man who takes them to his hut and provides them with clothes. The man later reveals himself to be Del Knox, Cooper’s partner before his death.

The next morning, the farmers find them and assault the house. The trio escapes while Del shoots at the two farmers with his revolver. The trio stumbles upon the site of Cooper’s crash-landing where they discover Cooper’s corpse and the suitcase that he used to hold the ransom money, and they realize that Cooper burned the money in an attempt to survive. As Dan crawls through a small tunnel to find a way out, the farmers find Jerry and Tom, and a fistfight ensues. Eventually, Sheriff Briggs, who had earlier helped the trio, intervenes, but he then reveals himself to be the farmers’ employer. Jerry arms a grenade taken from Dennis and throws it towards the pot dealers. It explodes, causing a tree to fall on the farmers and the sheriff, who are soon arrested.

In the closing scenes, Jerry, Dan, and Tom split half of the remaining money with Del. Jerry proposes to his girlfriend, Dan starts a relationship with Flower, and Tom becomes a camp counselor for a children’s summer camp where he ends up telling his troop all about the trip.

The odd laugh will definitely turn up, but there are many better comedies around, so unless you’re simply up for an evening of mostly forgettable fun, you might want to leave Without a Paddle wallowing in the shallows.

REVIEW: THE BOSS

CAST

Melissa McCarthy (Ghosbusters)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Ella Anderson (Henry Danger)
Tyler Labine (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Cecily Strong (The Bronze)
Kristen Schaal (Toy Story 3)
Dax Shepard (Hit & Run)
Margo Martindale (Mike & Molly)
Ben Falcone (New Girl)
Robert Pralgo (The Vampire Diaries)
Cedric Yarbrough (Meet The Fockers)The story follows Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy), a titan of industry who is sent to prison for insider trading, denounced by her former lover, Renault (Peter Dinklage). After doing her time, Michelle emerges, ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, but not everyone she steamrolled is so quick to forgive and forget.With nowhere to go and no one to scam, Michelle is forced to move in with former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her young daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson). Now at her lowest point, Michelle wastes no time in devising a winner-take-all plan to rebuild her empire.
This film is hilarious. It has a good level of humour throughout the whole film. Melissa is delightful. Some of the one liners had me in tears. Really a great nice watch. And a sword fight to remember! There is also a well played emotional side to comedy. A good balance of emotions and a lead character you will care about.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN

CAST

Steve Martin (Novocaine)
Bonnie Hunt (Jumanji)
Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly)
Tom Welling (Smallville)
Hilary Duff (Agent Cody Banks)
Kevin Schmidt (The Butterfly Effect)
Alyson Stoner (Step Up)
Jacob Smith (Troy)
Forrest Landis (Flightplan)
Liliana Mumy (That 70s Show)
Morgan York (The Pacifier)
Steven Anthony Lawrence (The Muse)
Paula Marshall (Veronica Mars)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Jared Padalecki (Supernatural)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Dax Shepard (Hit & Run)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Holmes Osbourne (Donnie Darko)
Alan Ruck (Speed)

Tom Baker (Martin) is a football coach at a small rural college in Midland, Indiana, where he raised twelve children, and his wife, Kate (Hunt), has written about her life story in a book and hopes to send it to her friend to publish it. At the film’s beginning, Tom unexpectedly receives an offer from his old friend and football teammate, Shake McGuire (Richard Jenkins), to coach at his alma mater in Evanston, Illinois. Tom accepts the offer, and he and Kate begin making their plans on moving to Evanston. All twelve Baker children find out and demand the move be put to a vote, although Tom says it would not have any power. Tom loses the vote, even after he and Kate join, but goes ahead with the move anyway, claiming there will be more money and that they will be a “happier and stronger family”. However, the atmosphere at the Bakers’ new house is tense, and the situation at school for the children is even worse, although their new neighbors: the Shenks seem alright, especially the father, Bill and their first and only son, Dylan.

When her book is ready for publication, Kate is told that she must do a national book tour to promote it in New York for three days. Tom thinks that he will handle everything around the Bakers’ house while Kate is away, so he decides to hire his older child, Nora, and her boyfriend, Hank, to manage the children. When Nora arrives at her family’s house to manage them, the children plan to make Hank the target of their prank by soaking his underwear in meat and assisting their pet dog, Gunner, to attack him by chewing on his butt, prompting him to refuse to assist in baby-sitting since they know that he hates kids. As a result, Nora is angry at the children and later drives off with Hank, while Tom berates the children for their prank and cuts off their allowance within a month.

Shortly after Kate departs for her national book tour, Tom realizes that he cannot handle the children on his own after a chaotic night since Kate is told to stay for two more weeks. In reply to this revelation, Tom tries to hire a housekeeper, but nobody is willing to work with a family as large as his, so Tom decides to bring the football players from work into his house for game practicing in the living room to prepare for the Saturday night football game as the children perform chores and their household games. However, the children start causing trouble at school, in which Kyle and Nigel hurt their kindergarten teacher, Charlie and Lorraine continue suffering insults from teenage bullies without any violence involved, and the others stand-up against a group of bullies by fighting them for picking one of their own brothers, Mark and are both suspended from school for the fight after Mark and the others along with the bullies were sent to the principal’s office. Because of these incidents, Tom grounds the Baker children from any fun and games and forbids them all from going to Dylan’s birthday party, although they already have presents for him.Without Tom noticing them, the children sneak out of the house to give Dylan his presents and cause havoc at the party. While discussing the plays, Tom overhears party-goers screaming from Dylan’s house as one of the gifts turns out to be a Brazilian mud viper snake from Mark. Tom sends his players to retrieve his kids while he tries to retrieve his daughter, Sarah, but during a mess, he fails and the bounce house explodes. In all of the commotion, Dylan gets injured by Tom and is later sent to the hospital with a broken arm as his mother, Tina, coldly forbids the Baker kids from ever playing with Dylan ever again. Tom is forced to cancel the game after Shake advises him not to bring the players in his house or the children in the department again.

Kate overhears from the children about the chaos and cancels the book tour to take charge of the situation. Kate’s publisher decides to create an additional promotion for her book by inviting Oprah Winfrey to tape a segment about the Bakers in their home instead. However, Tom finds a letter in his mailbox revealing that Charlie got kicked off the football team as he berates Tom and storms out of the house to rejoin his girlfriend, Beth, back at Midland. Tom is even more shocked to discover Hank having returned and slept over with Nora at home. Despite much coaching from Kate, the Bakers are not able to demonstrate the loving, strongly bonded family that Kate described in her book. When Mark becomes upset that his pet frog, Beans, has died, which Sarah tells him that nobody cares and calls him Fedex once again, a heated fight erupts moments before the segment starts, leading the cameramen to tell Winfrey to cancel it. Afterwards, Mark runs away from home, prompting the Bakers to find him.Tom suspects that Mark is trying to run back to the Bakers’ old home, and eventually finds Mark on a train en route from Chicago to Midland. Reuniting with the rest of their family, the Bakers begin to address their issues with each other. After burying Beans in the garden and performing a kind of eulogy with the whole family there, Tom ultimately resigns from his position at his alma mater and settles for a less-time consuming job. The film ends at a Christmas dinner with the Bakers when the chandelier lamp breaks off and smashes.Directed by Shawn Levy (‘Just Married’ and ‘Big Fat Liar’), the film is not a bad one. It’s not a brilliant one either, but is warmly written, well-acted and contains many physical gags that children in particular will love. Ashton Kutcher is hilarious in the film as the self-obsessed boyfriend who claims he is hounded by the paparazzi for the single TV commercial he has starred in. All in all, it’s well worth a look

REVIEW: HIT AND RUN (2012)

CAST

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Dax Sheperd (Zathura)
Tom Arnold (True Lies)
Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies)
Michael Rosenbaum (smallville)
Jess Rowland (The Princess Diaries 2)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Joy Bryant (Bobby)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Ryan Hansen (2 broke Girls)
Beau Bridges (Stargate Atlantis)
Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Sean Hayes (Will & Grace)

Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) is enrolled in the Witness Protection Program, staying in Milton, California under the supervision of incompetent U.S. Marshal Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold). Charlie’s girlfriend Annie Bean (Kristen Bell) is a professor at Milton Valley College and has a doctorate in Non-Violent Conflict Resolution from Stanford University, a major she created herself. Annie’s supervisor Debbie Kreeger (Kristin Chenoweth) calls Annie in for a meeting, where she tells her that the University of California is starting a Conflict Resolution program and is interested in interviewing her. The interview is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles at 4:00; Annie balks at the idea saying she needs to talk to her boyfriend about it first, until Debbie tells her to live for herself instead of boyfriends, and that she will be fired if she does not make it to the interview. A perplexed Annie returns home and tells Charlie of the job interview, upsetting him since Los Angeles is the area he lived in prior to enrolling in Witness Protection and can’t return to. Charlie insists Annie interview for the job for her own sake, even though he would be unable to follow her, but Annie instead returns to the college the next day to beg to keep her job. While she is gone, Charlie decides he would return to L.A. after all, and picks up Annie in his souped-up, restored Lincoln Continental, promising to take her to her interview.
Before they leave town Annie realizes that the teaching certificate she needs is at the home of her ex-boyfriend Gil Rathbinn (Michael Rosenbaum). She had previously told Gil that Charlie is in Witness Protection, and he urges Annie not to go with Charlie, who he is certain is a criminal who will chop her up. Annie blows him off and leaves with Charlie; Gil memorizes Charlie’s license plate and asks his gay police officer brother Terry (Jess Rowland) to look up the plate, who finds that the vehicle is registered to “Yul Clint Perkins” — Charlie’s real name. Gil uses the name to look up Charlie’s past, discovering he is a former getaway driver who testified in an ultimately unsuccessful bank robbery case against his accomplices, one of whom shot the bank guard. Gil finds the Facebook page of one of the defendants, Alexander Dmitri (Bradley Cooper), and leaves a message saying he knows where Yul Perkins is for the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Randy calls Charlie after discovering he is not home. Charlie tells him he is returning to L.A., and Randy insists on accompanying him per Marshals Service policy, leaving Milton in order to pursue Charlie. A short time later Charlie and Annie discover Gil following them in his vehicle. Charlie pulls over, intending to beat up Gil, but instead tries to non-violently resolve the situation at Annie’s insistence. Gil is unmoved, and reveals that he both knows Charlie’s real name and has Alex Dmitri as a “Facebook friend”. Charlie and Annie then flee from Gil in the Continental, in the process running Randy off the road as he arrives, but ultimately losing Gil. Elsewhere, Alex sees Gil’s Facebook message, gathers his fellow bank robbers Neve (Joy Bryant) and Alan (Ryan Hansen) and heads to meet Gil.
Annie and Charlie gas up the Continental, where the vehicle’s engine is admired by a redneck named Sanders (David Koechner). The two then make their way to a motel, where they are unknowingly followed by Sanders. In the morning, Charlie tries to start the vehicle, only to discover that the engine has been stolen in the night. Gil arrives shortly after, ambushing Charlie with a golf club, but Charlie distracts him and knocks him out, placing him in his vehicle. He quickly discovers that Gil was also accompanied by Alex’s crew, who are at the front desk. Charlie grabs the VIN Number of a Corvette in the parking lot, makes a duplicate keyless entry for the vehicle using the former tools of his trade, and then leaves with Annie, Gil and Alex’s crew in hot pursuit, with Randy joining the chase. During the chase Annie and Charlie argue over his past, where he reveals that he was a getaway driver who participated in 13 bank robberies, and that Neve was once his fiancee. The two ultimately escape their pursuers again.
Afterward, Annie demands Charlie pull over, where she confronts him for lying to her about his past. She decides to proceed to L.A. without Charlie; Gil arrives shortly after, and agrees to take Annie the rest of the way. A short time later they are run off the road by Alex, who takes Annie hostage and calls Charlie, telling him to meet at a nearby diner. Charlie arrives and Alex demands money in exchange for Annie, then argues about Charlie’s betrayal, cut short when Alex reveals that he was raped in jail and blames Charlie for it. Charlie agrees to take him to a hidden stash of bank robbery money located at the home of his estranged father Clint (Beau Bridges). While in transit he surreptitiously places a call to Randy, now in the company of Terry (who’s attracted to Randy) and his partner Angela Roth (Carly Hatter), and gives Randy his father’s address. The three pick up Gil along the way.

At Clint’s house, Charlie digs up a bag of money he hid in a pasture with his father, at the same time reconciling with him. His father carefully mentions he owns a Class 1 Off-Road racing vehicle; shortly after he knocks Alex down with a shovel, then fights with Alan as Charlie and Annie make their escape. The two get in the racer and flee just as Gil, Randy, Terry and Angela arrive. Alex and Neve attempt to follow, but Randy manages to shoot Alex as the latter fires at Charlie, forcing them to stop and placing the two under arrest. Two Marshals (Jason Bateman and Nate Tuck) later arrive and take Alex and his crew into custody, complimenting Randy and Terry on their work. After their escape, Charlie tells Annie he is committed to getting her to the interview still, wanting to keep his word despite the fact that she no longer loves him. Annie responds that she still loves him, and the two reconcile before continuing the trip. Charlie makes it to the University of California campus in time for Annie to make her interview. Before she leaves, Charlie offers to spend the rest of his life with her, which Annie accepts. The final scene cuts some months in the future, showing Randy and Terry, now in a relationship, giving each other a brief pep talk before heading to take the Marshals’ exam.

In a stinger segment, Annie makes her interview with Professor Sandy Osterman (Sean Hayes), interrupting him as he is smoking from a bong. After a rough start due to Osterman’s embarrassment at hotboxing his office and confusion at him not being a woman as Debbie had described, Osterman reveals that Debbie is his sister and she has jokingly called him a girl since he was 9. Annie expresses sympathy for how this must make Sandy feel, earning his approval and an immediate job offer, which she accepts.The action is fun, the characters are  terrific to spend time with, and the ending is satisfying. If you just go with it and let it surprise you, you’ll have a great time.