*. Not a movie that critics or audiences fell in love with, but I managed to stay with it. It’s a bit of a three-ring circus, but there are a lot of stars and they all do their thing reasonably well, without much aid from the script.
*. It’s a movie of role players. Jason Bateman has the part of the straight man he’s been playing since Arrested Development and Horrible Bosses down pat. To the point where he only seems half-awake here. Yes, his job is to try to remain steady as everything around him descends into chaos, but he really fades into the background in this movie. Meanwhile Jennifer Aniston is back as the bitch, or Grinch, T. J. Miller steals the show as the decent-but-dopey office manager. These are all square pegs going into square holes.
*. Some of the other typecasting may come across as racialized. Randall Park is the Asian man who can’t get a date because he has issues with being submissive. Karan Soni is the Indian guy who can’t get a date and so has to hire a prostitute to take to the party, where she intimidates him. There’s a black guy (Sam Richardson) who transforms into a hip-hop DJ. There’s a large black woman (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who is the building’s security guard and won’t take no messin’ around.
*. I don’t know if I’d call this racist so much as lazy. And I’d say the same for the plot. Yes, this is the old story where everything is going to hell so the best idea anyone has is to throw a party. Somehow that’s going to impress an angel investor to save Miller’s company. That’s a stretch, but it actually makes more sense than the turn things take in the final act, which is a literal deus ex cloud as one of the employees at the soon-to-be-terminated Chicago branch reinvents the Internet on the fly. Which saves everyone’s job, and every Jack has his Jill and we all go home together. Just as soon as we finish watching some below-grade outtakes through the credits. And yes, I’m rating outtakes now. I have to, because they’re in the movie.
*. I watched this movie right around the same time I watched Zombieland: Double Tap and I thought it interesting that both films end with the same message about how real family are a trial (and perhaps a curse) but one’s friends are a better surrogate anyway. This struck me as a familiar sentiment, as it had also been played up in The LEGO Batman Movie (2017). This is an old bit of folk wisdom (“God chooses your relatives; thank God you can choose your friends”) but it seems to have been gaining a lot more traction lately. A growing sense of social dislocation and anxiety? A wistful response to the fraying of family ties?
*. At least this movie has energy, if not a lot of laughs. As light and forgettable as most comedies of this period, which might not even be a criticism. This is what we want comedies to be: reassuring, as the world spirals into cruelty and chaos. Immanuel!