Thursday, March 19, 2009

Movie reviews: Buddy flicks worth seeing

Adult comedy wins without
skin; indie documentary
plays to the heart

We’re back in gear with the movies again – two free screenings in less than a week, of “buddy” films that could not have been more different.

Wednesday night's screening was a Maryland Film Festival-sponsored peek at “I Love You, Man,” which I was fully prepared to dislike as a trite buddy comedy.

I was right about one thing: It is a buddy comedy. But it was very, very funny – better than the sense of it I got from the excerpts aired on late-night TV talk shows in recent weeks as its stars made the rounds promoting the film.

Basic plot is a guy on the rebound thinks he’s fallen in love, proposes marriage, then figures out to his dismay that while his prospective bride has lots of girlfriends to gab with (usually about him), he doesn’t have a real friend to be his best man and sets out, at first with hookups engineered by his gay brother, to find one.

Now a little about this “buddy” thing in movies: Usually they seem to be made for guys. Action and stuff, bullets flying even when it’s a comedy. Buddy films that are serious, too, and yeah, with bullets flying.

This is a chick-flick-for-guys buddy film, which is to say it’s really oriented for guys but women will likely love it as much, or more. And there’s not a single gun drawn or bullet fired, just great dialogue shooting back and forth across the male-female and male-male divide.

If the standard of recent comedy in film is “Wedding Crashers,” this is a little less outrageous and a bit more subtly intelligent. And there’s no nudity! That’s shocking!

Paul Rudd as the restrained buddy-seeking groom and Jason Segal as the outrageous and unlikely friend he finds are brilliant in their performances. Both can be found cast together in recent comedies, including Segal’s star-turning effort as lead actor in and writer of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

As for all the other silly details about director and other actors (hey – Jane Curtin’s back!), and ratings and running time, you can find that stuff elsewhere. From me, you just get this: See it. It’s a hoot!

Saturday night, Bonnie and I checked out a free screening of the other buddy movie, “Darius Goes West.”

The star and center of attention is a then 15-year-old Darius Weems of Athens, Ga., who we know will die just as his older brother did from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
At a special camp program for the disabled, Darius was befriended by staff member Logan Smalley, who had worked with and become close to the boy’s late brother.

Darius had never been away from home, but a plot of sorts was hatched around the idea of a road trip to California to get the “Pimp My Ride” show on MTV to “pimp” his wheelchair. And around that trip in a large motor home, with Darius supported and carried and rolled by a crew of 11 young men including Logan, they filmed this amazing documentary.

Not everything that was planned or hoped for happens, but Darius experiences more living and love on the three-week journey than many people without disabilities will know in a lifetime.

A prize-winner at a variety of film festivals over the past two years, “Darius Goes West” has generated a new kind of road tour through public screenings and sales of the DVD at a modest $20 to raise money for the Darius Goes West Foundation aimed at finding a way to prevent the deadly genetic disease and to develop treatments for its victims. (From each sale, they say, $17 goes to the foundation and the rest toward making more DVDs.)

Darius and most of the crew, including Smalley, the film’s producer-director, attended the Baltimore screening at the quirky-artsy new bar called The Windup Space at 12 W. North Ave. (, fielded questions for half an hour, and sold dozens of copies of the DVD.

Their goal is a million sold by Darius’ 20th birthday in September. (That’s longer than his brother lived.) Nearly every dollar raised through the DVD sales goes to the foundation.

Interesting: They say the film was produced at a cost of just $70,000. To date, it has generated some $1.5 million for the cause.

To further another purpose, of educating children about muscular dystrophy and disability, the DVD has been sent to about 50,000 high schools and middle schools across the country, Smalley said.

Check out the Web site at

Even better, make a donation or order the DVD. Just watching it will make you feel good about a bunch of kids from Georgia, and that maybe there’s hope for America as a place where people care about being their brother’s keeper.

Who's that leprechaun?

Check out Bonnie's blog at for a view of Lucy's pub in downtown Baltimore on St. Patrick's Day. I could play the "Where's Waldo?" game and challenge you to find me. But I'll make it easy: Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you'll find me in a light sportcoat and greenish shamrock tie in the right corner of the right window. Nice bar, nice crowd, nice music, and the tender corned beef sliders were a bargain.

No comments: