By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Last week, scientists released the results of a study that suggests inhibiting a compound called "nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer" that's produced by the hypothalamus dramatically slows the aging process in laboratory mice. That's great news! On the other hand, thanks to the hearty expression of that protein complex inside the hypothalamus of a certain early-1980s Saturday Night Live alum, the shouting, emphatic "Sports Guy" character from "Weekend Update" has given way to the craggy and surprisingly soulful Joe Piscopo who stars in How Sweet It Is, an extraordinarily undistinguished comedy from director Brian Herzlinger. Piscopo plays a washed-up, alcoholic musical-theater director with the showbizzy name Jack Cosmo who owes several hundred thousand dollars to a mob boss named "Placeholder Name"—oh, sorry, we mean "Big Mike"—played by Paul Sorvino. A Broadway enthusiast, Big Mike wants to produce a musical about (sigh) a recovering chocoholic, to be titled How Sweet It Is. He forces Jack to write and stage the show with a cast of his friends and debtors. An FBI agent with a talent for song and dance lands the lead as part of a bureau sting operation. Like the climactic musical itself, the film pivots on silly people and absurd situations that demand total, unhinged commitment. If you slap this kind of broad farce on the table, you have to ante all your comedic chips . . . then add your car keys, wallet, the deed to your house, and your daughter's college fund. The director and his co-writer, Jay Black, don't seem to have much skin in the game.
Hey! I'm Jay Black, one of the writers of the film. I'd like to say first that I'm not offended by this review at all. I'm actually kind of thrilled just to be in the Village Voice!
That said, I used write reviews myself for AOL back before it was gobbled up by Arianna Huffington. It's been a while since I've written a review, but after reading Chris Packham's review of my movie, I thought a review of his review might be in order.
Mr. Packham's review is a pull-quote in search of an actual analysis. Granted, "extraordinarily undistinguished" is the kind of almost-nonsense that grabs you immediately, but he doesn't manage to expand on that point at all. What's striking about this is that the lack of analysis isn't a result of the small word count -- though, to be fair, it doesn't look like Mr. Packham had more than a few hundred words to work with -- but because he felt the need to pad the review needlessly with an overly-long and overwrought lede sentence. The result? Mr. Packham spends literally half the review trying to find a clever way to say that Joe Piscopo is old.
It's arguable, I suppose, that Mr. Packham didn't have much else to say about the film -- that it was so undistinguished that he couldn't bring himself to analyze it and decided, instead, to try to whip up something dazzling for his mediabistro resume. Even if we were accept that premise, what we're left with is the onus of the analysis being on the reader. Mr. Packham, you want to shout, this is a freelance writing gig, not an English Lit seminar!
Towards the end of the review, Mr. Packham manages to make some light points about the necessity of farce to bring to it "unhinged commitment" and that "How Sweet It Is" somehow failed to do that. There's a nugget of a good idea in there that's left unexplored by the review's unnecessary, distracting stylistic flourishes.Mr. Packham's review screams to the world (or, more specifically, to editors with rent checks in their vest pockets), "Hey, look at me!", but instead of doing so with clear and cutting analysis, he does so with belabored humor and wheel-spinning. One hundred a fifty words shouldn't take this long to read.
GRADE: C MINUS.
That was fun! Now, the only way it can be made more fun is if Mr. Packham reviews my review of his review! We keep this going long enough we could be the online comment equivalent of an Escher drawing!
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