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That Awkward Moment (2014)

3 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“That Awkward Moment” is a romantic comedy (“romcom”) told from the male perspective. For most moviegoing males, this would be interesting, since they generally hate romcoms. They’re tired of the usual clichés that romcoms share and push them aside as “chick flicks.” Well, now we have three main characters in “That Awkward Moment” who are guys, but this doesn’t fix the problem of the romcom clichés. That’s because the clichés are still present here. It doesn’t matter from whose perspective you center a romcom on; it doesn’t change much in the story. You still have the relationships with The Lie, The Bad Advice, The Misunderstanding, The Final Emotional Speech In Front Of A Large Crowd, etc.

Oops, I gave away the ending, didn’t I?

“That Awkward Moment” isn’t as clever or smart as a Judd Apatow romantic comedy, which I sometimes see as an exception to the rule, mainly because Apatow knows how to keep the romance and comedy consistent and original for the most part. But to the credit of “That Awkward Moment,” the film has its moments of both romance and comedy that do work, mainly when it focuses AWAY from its running gags (most of which include a neverending series of cracks about genitalia).

It also deserves credit for its casting. The actors playing the three main characters (Zac Efron as arrogant, selfish Jason; Miles Teller as wisecracking barfly Daniel; and Michael B. Jordan as Mikey, the most mature one of the trio) are spot-on and play their roles well. They share good chemistry together and you really buy them as good friends. Unfortunately, you don’t care enough about them to spend more time with them. That’s because they each put themselves in situations where you just want to smack them in the face for thinking this. (And I know it’s part of the joke, because they refer to each other as “idiots” for their deeds, but that still doesn’t excuse the acts already executed.) That’s one of the major problems with this movie.

“That Awkward Moment” is about how these three young men make a pact to stay single after Mikey has just gotten out of a relationship with his wife (played by Jessica Lucas) who was cheating on him. His friends, Jason and Daniel, try to cheer him up by going out to a bar. Jason meets a beautiful blonde named Ellie (played by an astonishing Imogen Poots) and goes home with her, but when he sees signs that point to her as a hooker, he bails, only to discover (big shock) that she isn’t a hooker at all.

Tell me something, ladies. If a guy says he bailed on you because he thought you were a hooker right to your face, would you give him another chance?

Well, Ellie does. And she and Jason go out on many dates, which Jason isn’t so sure about, since has been through the “so” moment just recently with his previous girlfriend (“so” as in the question “so are we officially dating”). Meanwhile, Daniel starts a fling with his female buddy, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and decides he wants to be more than “friends with benefits.” She agrees, as long as Jason and Mikey are cool with it. So of course, Daniel lies about telling them. Oops.

And get this—Mikey’s soon-to-be ex-wife wants to start something again with him, even though all logic points to a trap. Anyone can see this. Anyone except for Mikey, that is.

Mikey’s story gets the least development as Mikey is always sidelined by that of Jason and Daniel. That’s a shame too, because Mikey seems like the guy you’d like to pal around with and talk random stuff with. And it’s also unfortunate, seeing as how he makes as many dumb mistakes as the other guys.

Jason and Ellie have nice moments together, as Efron and Poots exhibit convincing chemistry. But the problem falls with Jason, who is too much of an arrogant jerk to care for. Even when the inevitable happens and he learns his lessons after making dumb mistakes, it’s hard to feel for him, though another problem with that may be the way it’s written. It doesn’t seem convincing enough.

I was actually wishing the relationship with Daniel and Chelsea was its own movie. Of the three central relationships, this one was my favorite. It was both sweet and funny at the same time, keeping that right balance. I enjoyed watching both actors play off each other. I was hoping they wouldn’t go through the usual clichés (but alas, the Misunderstanding had to happen).

Now for the comedy. I’ll admit to having laughed a few times, sometimes despite myself. But you also have to question most of the setups. For example, what about when Jason confuses Ellie’s “dress-up” party for something so different he wears an embarrassing outfit to? Why would he wear it anyway if he knew Ellie’s friends and family were going to be there? There’s also a gag involving Viagra that questions what these guys consider a pickup at a bar, but to be fair, it does lead to a funny sight gag.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel that “That Awkward Moment” is a PG-13 story in an R-rated movie, meaning the filmmakers must have thought the relationships were too sweet for a male romcom, so they needed more F-bombs and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of genitalia jokes. It’s a good thing I didn’t bring a date to this movie, because we would have had our own awkward moment.


Return to Oz (1985)

30 Nov


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Talk about not being in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I know “The Wizard of Oz,” one of the greatest fantasy films of all time, had its dark moments too (and I will never forget the horrific scene involving the flying monkeys and what they do to poor Scarecrow), but look at what its 1985 sequel threw at its young audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kids who saw this movie weren’t having nightmares based on the film’s images, or even running from the theater while screaming. We’re talking severed heads (which are very much alive), rocks with moving faces on them, and creepy menaces called Wheelers.

What’s weird is that this movie was clearly intended for children. Its plucky little protagonist and the quirky creatures she befriends along a journey through the fantasy world of Oz (though it doesn’t look as incredible as it did before; the Emerald City is a ruins now and what I guess was originally Munchkinland looks like it was replaced by a nature reserve) to be sure of that. But while it has its suitably silly fantasy-story moments, it has more moments that are bleak, disturbing, and even terrifying that you wonder if they weren’t originally going to make a horror film, or maybe a horror-comedy like a parody of “The Wizard of Oz.”

But on one hand, I think what scares some kids about this movie will delight others. Some people could argue that scaring kids is an irresponsible and somewhat too-easy move to pull in order to keep the movies edgier. But on the other hand, you could argue that kids rather enjoy being scared. That’s because when they’re scared by what’s happening on the screen, there’s the chance they could be further sucked in by what’s happening on the screen. So, I won’t pan “Return to Oz” for being dark. (However, I do wonder what the hell they were thinking when the film opens with Dorothy being locked in an insane asylum and about to undergo shock therapy to cure her insomnia!)

But aside from nifty Claymation effects and an admittedly interesting villain known as the Nome King, there really isn’t much to “Return to Oz.” It’s just Dorothy and her friends off to find the Scarecrow from the original movie and adventures happen to them. I like some of the side characters, like a talking hen and a mechanical assistant called Tik Tok. But there’s also a scary-looking, towering, naïve pumpkin-head who sees Dorothy as a mother-figure, which is kind of creepy. The delight of Oz is barely existent. And when they find the Scarecrow, there’s hardly any time to get reacquainted with the beloved character. Some of the set pieces aren’t taken enough advantage of, such as a sandy desert that swallows those who step onto it. Dorothy is not interesting in the slightest, not that I blame Fairuza Balk because the role is thankless to begin with. The pacing is slow. There’s hardly a development, nor a solid resolution. And to sum it up, “Return to Oz” isn’t a very exciting return, except for the grim scenes that are actually more interesting than anything else in the movie.

The Last American Virgin (1982)

19 Jul


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Well, I can’t exactly write about “The Last American Virgin” without bringing up some trivial background. This came out in the year 1982, when the “Teenage Sex Movies” craze of the 1980s was making itself known. When “Porky’s” was a big hit with audiences, producers thought to cash in on its success by making their own films that involve horny teenagers (mostly teenage boys who hope to get laid) and a lot of teenage sex. “The Last American Virgin” was released shortly after “Porky’s,” and then came “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (which, mind you, is less crude and more insightful than the other such movies) and then the class of such films began, a great deal of them ranging from mediocre to godawful. How does “The Last American Virgin” fit into the range? Well…a part of me wants people to avoid it at all costs, because a large portion of the movie is either painful or predictable (or painfully predictable or predictably painful). The other part of me…well, I’ll get to that later.

The story: Gary (Lawrence Monoson) is a typical, average high school kid who scopes every pretty girl he spots and pretty much wants to get laid. (And to be fair, despite the title “The Last American Virgin,” the movie isn’t about a desperate attempt for Gary to have sex.) His friends are hunky jerk Rick (Steve Antin) and portly Belushi-esque David (Joe Rubbo), who have more luck than him; Gary usually gets the wrong end of the stick when the boys attempt to get laid. This leads to many comedic moments that are more predictable and groan-worthy than funny and laugh-worthy. First, the boys pick up three girls and bring them to Gary’s house when his parents aren’t home. This exploit leads to embarrassing moments involving bare breasts, a misunderstanding, and, wouldn’t you know it, the surprised arrival of Gary’s parents.

Even more misadventures come as the movie continues. The boys borrow a nerdy friend’s car to make out at a makeout point, and—wouldn’t you know it—the car winds up in the lake. Gary delivers a pizza (he’s a delivery boy) to a sex-crazed woman who promises he’ll get lucky if he comes back, and so he brings Rick and David next time; Rick and David have their time with her, but—wouldn’t you know it—before Gary has his chance, her husband comes home and chases them away. And so on. I can see a lot of “Porky’s” here, and I can see where some of these other “Teenage Sex Movies” gained their inspiration for “comedic highlights.” I won’t even mention the prostitute the boys come across and what that leads to because once you notice a certain shot, you’ll know right away what the punchline is.

Actually, you know what? I don’t want to do that to you, so I’ll just give it away right here. They all have sex with her and they get crabs. That’s it.

These moments are scattered all over “The Last American Virgin” and the bigger problem is that they’re dull and predictable. Every time the punchline came around, I had to say to myself, “Of course.” They’re not very funny; they’re just painful for the most part.

Gary’s crush is a pretty transfer student named Karen (Diane Franklin) whom he tries to get to go out with him. She likes him as a friend, and only has her eyes set on loathsome, studly Rick. Later in the movie, she and Rick have sex, which breaks Gary’s heart. But later, Karen is pregnant and Rick just ignores her and shuts her out because she irritates him. So Gary comes to the aid of poor Karen and pays for an abortion and offers her a place to stay for a while (his grandparents’ house).

Then it seems as if you know how this is going to end, with Gary and Karen winding up together because that’s what we want, after we’ve seen how much Gary genuinely cares for Karen and Karen is starting to like him. At no point can we predict the ending of “The Last American Virgin.” And that’s the main distinction you can get from this otherwise-trashy movie: the ending. You think Gary and Karen are going to be together because that’s how we like our movies to end, and this ending comes along like a punch in the gut. Gary is invited to Karen’s birthday party and he buys her a nice necklace as a gift. He goes to the party, asks David where Karen is, David says she’s in the kitchen, and Gary opens the kitchen door and…Karen is making out with Rick. That’s right—despite what Rick has done and what he put her through, Karen took him back. Gary’s dreams of having a romance with her are shattered, his heart is broken, and he doesn’t even say a word—he just leaves the party, drives home alone in tears, and…the end-credits roll. That’s seriously how “The Last American Virgin” ends: with a downbeat, depressing, true-to-life ending.

Sheesh! Did this movie have test-screenings? I wouldn’t think audiences would have appreciated this before it was released! Even “Tex,” the most credible “teen film” among the group, had an ending more upbeat than this.

If there’s anything can be taken from this movie, it’s that ending. Not the nudity, not the failed comedy, not the poor acting (I’ve seen Lawrence Monoson do a better acting job as the best friend in “Mask,” but here, he lacks strong emotion—and no one else is any better), not even the early-‘80s soundtrack (by the way, they play the same songs over and over again to create “themes”; it’s pretty distracting). It’s the ending. That’s the only thing I can take from this movie, which is otherwise deplorable and ineffective. I think that’s why I give it a two-star rating instead of a one. The film did try and bring some solidness and honesty to the mix, and I give the filmmakers credit for that because “Porky’s” was too focused on nudity, crudeness, sex, and hi-jinks to care for anything else. “The Last American Virgin” is not a film I recommend, but it is a film I can respect in certain cases.


Observe and Report (2009)

21 Jun

Observe and Report

Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

All right, let’s get it out of the way. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was released the same year as “Observe and Report” and they each feature a mall cop as a leading character. Whoop-de-do.

But both movies are undeniably different from each other. While they are satirical looks at this sort of “rent-a-cop” occupation, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is a suitable family film in that it’s lighthearted, silly nonsense, while “Observe and Report” is…I mean, holy *bleep*. This movie is like the Bizarro “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” It’s dark, unusual, twisted, demented, crude, and completely *bleep*ed up. Seriously, this is a freaking deranged film. At times, it’s funny in its dementedness; other times, it’s very uncomfortable in such; and mostly, it’s unpleasant. One thing that I can’t deny, however, is that writer-director Jody Hill (of the equally-unusual “The Foot-Fist Way”) isn’t afraid to go all out with how crazily he can develop a story.

Seth Rogen stars as the “mall cop” of the story, but don’t expect a lovable loser from this character and performance. While Rogen has been funny and likable as an appealing schmoe in movies like “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express,” he’s not how people would want to see him usually. And those who do probably won’t know what to make of his Ronnie Barnhardt, Mall Cop. This guy is just an a-hole—a sociopath who has a short fuse, a loud mouth, a tendency to get himself in situations he doesn’t belong…and yes this guy is Chief of Security at Forest Ridge Mall. He’s one of the most disturbed, hateful leading men you’ll ever find in a comedy, and Rogen gets lost into the role, to his credit. Ronnie lives with his alcoholic mother (Celia Weston), works with four other mall cops, including Dennis (Michael Pena) and the Yuen twins (John and Matt Yuan), and constantly keeps an eye on a cosmetics girl he has a crush on, Brandi (Anna Faris), even though Nell (Collette Wolfe), another female worker at the mall (though more good-natured than Brandi is), clearly has an interest in him. When a flasher invades the mall parking lot and some of the indoor stores get robbed as well, Ronnie takes it upon himself to one-up the police, particularly crude Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), and “crack the cases” himself.

How do you properly describe the tone of “Observe and Report?” Well, at least it’s consistently dark, and, since it mostly centers around a detestable mall employee, a connection could further be made with “Bad Santa” rather than “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Both “Bad Santa” and this movie have a darkly-comedic tone that comes with the deeds/actions of a unbelievably socially inept main character and a sense of biting satire. In this case, there are satirical elements to be found, mostly towards Ronnie’s profession (malls, mall-cop, gun use); and there’s also some to be found from the actions of supposed professional police detective Harrison, who at one point can’t take Ronnie’s behavior anymore, calling him “retard” even. Mainly it’s all a series of lowbrow, less sophisticated comedic setups and gags—some of which are funny, others are uncomfortable to watch, and others are somewhat unnecessary (an example of this is an exchange of multiple “f-you’s” from loud to whisper to simply mouthing the words—is that supposed to be funny?). There are so many gags that are very much “out there,” you’ll be wondering if what you’re seeing is really happening or a sick fantasy in deranged Ronnie’s mind.

I don’t think I properly got the point more across as to how much of a creep Ronnie is. It’s hard to sympathize with him, even when Harrison tricks him and leads him to a dangerous part of town where drug dealers attack (led by Hill’s former leading man, Danny McBride). What supplies some of the film’s humor is the way that Ronnie sees himself as the hero of this story, while most of us would think otherwise.

I don’t see the point in some of the side characters. I found Michael Pena to be wasted in the role of Ronnie’s second-in-command, and a twist involving his character didn’t make me laugh or interest me in the slightest. The main joke involving the Yuen twins is that they want to use guns…fine. But then there’s Ronnie’s mother, who is completely incompetent at giving inspirational talks to her son because she’s drunk half the time; Nell, who serves to be the ultimate love-interest once Ronnie realizes that maybe Brandi isn’t the woman for him; and speaking of which, Brandi does go on a dinner date with Ronnie, and it leads to…I’m not going to lie, a pretty hilarious (though so-wrong) sexual encounter. I will always think of Anna Faris as an airhead ever since the “Scary Movie” films, but…damn she’s brave.

“Observe and Report” is about as dark a “dark comedy” can get, and as unusual as such can get. I didn’t laugh much, but when I did, I laughed my ass off. The climax, in particular, is probably the weirdest thing in the movie, but I laughed and laughed and laughed! Is this crazy film worth recommending for those few laughs? Well…not necessarily. But I do have some sort of respect towards both Hill and Rogen for making something as dark and nasty without holding back.

Hannibal (2001)

8 May


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

You know that old saying, “Less is more?” That was certainly true of “The Silence of the Lambs,” which implied heavy violence while actually showing the aftermath so that we, as an audience, can picture what it must have been like. It maintained a terrific amount of psychological tension that way. It would be a mistake to show in graphic blood-and-gore details and lose the psychological terror of the situations. I say this because 10 years after “The Silence of the Lambs” was released, “Hannibal” would come around and also turn things around. It shows more; it delivers more blood and gore. It seems as if a majority of the film’s budget went into how the filmmakers were going to gross people out. So much for psychological terror.

“Hannibal” is the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” both films based on novels by Thomas Harris. Director Jonathan Demme has not returned this time around, and instead has been replaced by Ridley Scott. And also, Jodie Foster, whose portrayal of heroine Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” won her a richly-deserved Academy Award, has decided not to return to the role this time. Instead, she’s replaced with Julianne Moore. But we still have Anthony Hopkins back in the iconic villainous role of cannibalistic serial killer/former psychiatrist Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. But even his psychotic charisma isn’t enough to save “Hannibal,” which is a big step down from what made “The Silence of the Lambs” special.

This is not the gripping psychological thriller it would like us to believe. We see everything that would have been implied in the original film in graphic detail, just because Scott feels the need to shock his audience. We have a man cutting off his face (and then feeding it to his dogs); we have men being eaten alive by numerous boars; and there’s also a scene in which a man has his skull cut open, exposing his brain and having Lecter cut out a part of it, sauté it, and then feed it to the man, who is still alive.

While Clarice Starling was a complex center of the original story, Clarice this time around is hardly anything more than a plot device. She is brushed aside to make room for running time with Lecter, who is really the center of “Hannibal” (going by the title, that should be obvious). The intricate characterization of Clarice Starling is practically nonexistent here. The relationship between Lecter and Clarice (the most captivating part of the original film) is barely here, as the two only have a few scenes together. And even then, when they have their final encounter in the climax, it’s more disappointing than it is compelling. I give Julianne Moore credit for doing what she can with the role, but she’s given much of interest to do. (Besides, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Jodie Foster in the role anyway.)

Hopkins’ creepiness factor that came with the character of Hannibal Lecter has been toned down for “Hannibal,” which also seems like a disadvantage. While it does make Lecter more of an anti-hero than a full-fledged villain this time around, it’s not exactly what we like to see from the character. Oh, he still commits horrible crimes in this one, but there’s never a sense that we wish he would get caught, which itself makes it kind of sick in a way.

And here’s a question—even though Lecter’s disappearance and the search for him has become so notorious that his stuff is selling on eBay, Lecter has somehow managed to create a false identity among society in Florence; how is it that only one person seems to notice who he is?

Other characters include—hateful politician Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) who is constantly on Clarice’s case; Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is that aforementioned person to see through Lecter’s phony identity, as he attempts to capture him for the reward money; and there’s also one of Lecter’s previous victims, an attorney named Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, uncredited) whose face is horribly disfigured since his encounter with Lecter and is more ruthless than Clarice suspected when he put her on the case for a new lead in the search for Lecter. Neither one of these characters reach three-dimensionality; though to be fair, Merger comes somewhat close, but not quite enough.

But what about Scott? How does he fare as the director this time around? Well, being a Ridley Scott film, “Hannibal” is laced with atmosphere and inventive shots, and I suppose I can give him credit for being able to pull off what probably couldn’t have been filmed by many other filmmakers (the brain-eating scene, for example). One thing “Hannibal” that is undeniable is that it’s stylistic.

“Hannibal” is clumsy, ordinary, unnecessary, and worst of all, it’s anticlimactic. After so much buildup waiting for Lecter and Clarice to square down, we’re subjected to a “climax” (if you would even call it that) that is so disappointing that it’s hardly worth talking about. Something terrific could have been made here; as it is, it’s pretty much disposable.

Top Gun (1986)

5 May

Top Gun movie image Tom Cruise

Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Top Gun” was one of the highest-grossing films of the 1980s and is considered to be a nostalgic staple of the decade, as it is still being quoted and referenced by movie buffs to this day. And around the time it was released in the summer of 1986, this movie practically ruled the world. The soundtrack (which included Berlin’s Oscar-winning ballad “Take My Breath Away” and Kenny Loggins’ awesome “Danger Zone”) was known by all; lead actor Tom Cruise became a huge Hollywood star; and the film had many quotable lines such as “I feel the need—the need for SPEED!” Also, it was the top-grossing film of the year.

But truth be told, I’ve always found “Top Gun” to be overrated. I was bored by a good majority of the material. There are many reviews of action-packed summer blockbusters from critics that want more human-interest story than high-energy action. This is an unusual case in that the human-interest element of “Top Gun” is a bore, in comparison to the action sequences, which are admittedly top-notch.

To be fair though, I think this had something to do with test audiences feeling there was too much action in the original cut, and not enough of the romantic angle between lead actors Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. So, in a last-ditch effort to please audiences, Cruise and McGillis were called back to film a couple more scenes, including an overly-stylized sex scene. At first, I thought these scenes were Scott’s attempt to cash in on thematic elements originated from 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman”—not only with an academy of hotshot military men (in case, Navy Fighter Pilots) and their misadventures (in addition to the mystery of a heroic father, the rivalry with a fellow group member, etc.), but also with a steamy, complicated romance between the most eager of the group and an attractive young woman. In some way, I believe they were, but the additions didn’t help much. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were interesting, but while the actors are talented and appealing, they just aren’t given juicy material to work with. Everything is basic and obligatory, without a moment in which you can’t predict what’s going to happen.

But what am I talking about? The film isn’t about the human-interest story, you might say. It’s about the action. Well, when a good chunk of human-interest story demands as much attention, it can’t be ignored for what it is. What it is didn’t work for me at all. But the aerial sequences—Wait. I’m getting way ahead of myself here. For those who don’t know what “Top Gun” is about (so few of you, I’m assuming), I’ll do you a favor:

Tom Cruise plays an ace Navy pilot, whose code name is Maverick. In a terrific opening scene, we see him fly upside-down a few inches above a Russian-built MiG and take a picture of the enemy pilot, before flipping the finger and flying off. That stunt impresses Navy personnel, which leads to Maverick and his co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards), selected for the Navy’s elite flying academy, which engages in numerous aerial dogfights. (The best graduate from the school is labeled “Top Gun,” hence the title.) And this is where many of those obligatory elements come into place—Maverick has a father whose identity is a mystery to him but not to some important people; he runs afoul of a pompous pilot, Iceman (Val Kilmer), who becomes his rival; and Maverick falls for a pretty young woman, Charlie (Kelly McGillis), who is actually one of the instructors.

OK, enough of the plot. Let’s get to the brilliant aerial dogfight sequences. First of all, I should state that creating scene upon scene set in the air can’t be easy to do. It’s a true challenge to pull off, and even if you manage to make it seem convincing, there’s a danger that the audience will be disoriented from dizziness. But these are actually well-choreographed and pretty exciting in the way that we follow these pilots every step (or flight) of the way. You really get the sense of what it’s like to be in one of these experiences. They’re the only reason to see “Top Gun,” which unfortunately hardly has a clue about how a romantic couple might act. The scenes set on the ground needed to be rewritten; as it is, it’s extremely predictable and hardly investing. The scenes between Maverick and Goose have more sexual tension than Maverick and Charlie. (Rimshot)

I was hardly surprised by anything other than the aerial scenes in “Top Gun.” Those scenes are well-crafted and brilliant. But in the scenes set on the ground, in which the characters talk to each other, it really brings the film down. “Top Gun” may be fun to some people, and the scenes set in the air are a good deal of fun. For me, I was wishing for more.

Good Burger (1997)

20 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Good Burger” is more targeted for the young Nickelodeon crowd than the cynical adults and teenagers who would rather be watching something like “Austin Powers” for their lighthearted entertainment. Though, to be fair, I wouldn’t mind anyone enjoying this film, despite my negative review. It’s like this—I can’t recommend the movie to anyone over the age of 11 or 12, but I can see why it can be entertaining even for them. It’s likeable, good-natured, at times pretty funny, and entertaining. However, it’s also sporadically funny, occasionally stupid, at (some) times mean-spirited, and thus making it inconsistently entertaining.

“Good Burger” is based on the popular sketch on the Nickelodeon comedy series “All That,” though even those who aren’t affiliated with the sketch will catch on quick (there’s nothing too important to remember that isn’t caught up with in the movie). It stars Kel Mitchell as Ed, an unbelievably dim-witted counter guy working at Good Burger, a small-town fast food joint employed with as much diversity as possible—including a vegetarian; an aging old man (Abe Vigoda); and a large weirdo named Spatch (Ron Lester) who swats a fly on his forehead with a spatula and then eats it. And apparently, Ed is the only one who can work the cash register, as we see in an opening scene, Ed is late and everyone else is calling for him.

Good Burger has some serious competition right across the street—the exaggeratedly huge Mondo Burger, managed by neo-Nazi Kurt (Jan Schwieterman), who plans to take Good Burger down by selling more burgers. (These burgers, I might add, are also ridiculously large. It even weighs Spatch’s spatula down.)

Kenan Thompson (Kel Mitchell’s partner-in-crime on Nickelodeon’s “Kenan and Kel”) plays Dexter Reed, a teenage slacker who is looking forward to spending summer vacation without the annoyance of a summer job. But bad luck occurs when Dexter winds up hitting the car of his teacher Mr. Wheat (Sinbad, portraying a Shaft wannabe—by the way, I love the part where he spins briefly to the tune of “Shaft”), even without a license and borrowing his mom’s car. Dexter needs money to pay for the car, and so he meets Ed, who gives him the job of Good Burger’s delivery boy.

With Mondo Burger becoming more popular every day, and Good Burger slowly going out of business, Dexter comes up with the idea to put upon their own burgers a special, delicious, secret sauce, invented by Ed. Ed’s sauce becomes a big hit, which of course makes Good Burger Kurt’s personal enemy.

“Good Burger” is not for everybody, simply because it’s mostly a kid movie. There are so many contrivances that only the Nickelodeon crowd will appreciate—a bizarre opening-credit sequence in which Ed unwittingly causes mayhem on his way to work (a baby and a basketball are switched at one point); the slapstick-induced sequence in which a sexy Mondo Burger spy named Roxanne attempts to seduce Ed, which ends painfully; and let’s not forget the whole deal late in the film about how Kurt has Ed and Dexter committed to an insane asylum, from which they must escape via stolen ice cream truck, as the bad guys give chase. This movie is all over the map.

Oh, and there’s also an attempt to have a genuine moment, involving a backstory about Dexter’s late father. How can you take this scene seriously when it’s clumsily fitted into a movie with a scene such as the one where Ed shoves grapes in his nostrils and constantly chants, “Bloobity bloobity bloobity”?

But there are some things I do like about it. Foremost is Kel Mitchell as Ed. While a lot of the script’s jokes aren’t very funny on paper, Mitchell’s delivery of them is just priceless. Mitchell portrays Ed as just so dumb, but does playfully so that it’s hard not to like him. Kel Mitchell is the real reason to check out “Good Burger.” He is immensely funny and likeable.

Here’s an example of Ed’s behavior—he’s asked what would look great on a corndog, to which he responds, “A turtleneck?” And also, whenever the shake machine is broken, he actually gets inside it to fix it and emerges in pink goop. My favorite moment, though, is at the end, when we see just how amazingly bright Ed is when he has to be.

Kenan Thompson, as straight-man to Ed’s antics, is an effective foil—first, Dexter is confused by Ed’s behavior, then he’s annoyed quickly, then he decides to take advantage of him so that he gets most of the money Ed makes for his sauce (Ed is oblivious to this, of course), and then he decides to tolerate him, as they both set out to see exactly what Mondo Burger is up to with their food (is Mondo Burger using illegal food additives?). And Thompson has a few funny moments as well, particularly when he’s stammering while coming up with the right thing to say in certain situations. And there’s also a sweet romantic subplot involving him and a co-worker named Monique (Shar Jackson), who dates him because of how Ed takes to him as a buddy. (“Whomever he likes can’t be all that bad,” she admits.)

I can’t necessarily recommend “Good Burger,” but I do give the filmmakers (particularly director Brian Robbins and co-writers Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert, and Dan Schneider—the third one portrays Good Burger’s manager) credit for the film’s good nature and I have to admit that I find myself going back to the film every now and then to see the parts that I like. Maybe I could recommend the film just for myself. But then again, I started watching this movie when I was a little kid, obsessed with Nickelodeon. Maybe you could call it nostalgia. But I don’t know. There are some movies out there that I loved when I was a kid that have not held up at all now (like “Angels in the Outfield,” for example), so what does that say?

I don’t know, but I’m giving “Good Burger” a negative review, but also an affectionate review.