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Trouble ahead

This is, I should confess, not a film I meant to see. I meant to see Harry Potter, but turned up for the screening in the right place at the wrong time — a week early, I’m such a schmuck — and had to take what was showing, which was You Again, with the tag line: ‘What doesn’t kill you...will marry your brother.’ Instantly, I doubted the veracity of this — I can’t put my finger on what made me doubtful, I just felt it in my bones, and called my brother. ‘Jon,’ I said, ‘if I had athlete’s foot and it didn’t kill me, would you marry it?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘And I’m already married to Mary, as you know.’ I do know this, just as I know that, if you can’t trust a film’s tag line, there may be trouble ahead.

13 November 2010

12:00 AM

13 November 2010

12:00 AM

This is, I should confess, not a film I meant to see. I meant to see Harry Potter, but turned up for the screening in the right place at the wrong time — a week early, I’m such a schmuck — and had to take what was showing, which was You Again, with the tag line: ‘What doesn’t kill you…will marry your brother.’ Instantly, I doubted the veracity of this — I can’t put my finger on what made me doubtful, I just felt it in my bones, and called my brother. ‘Jon,’ I said, ‘if I had athlete’s foot and it didn’t kill me, would you marry it?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘And I’m already married to Mary, as you know.’ I do know this, just as I know that, if you can’t trust a film’s tag line, there may be trouble ahead.

This is, I should confess, not a film I meant to see. I meant to see Harry Potter, but turned up for the screening in the right place at the wrong time — a week early, I’m such a schmuck — and had to take what was showing, which was You Again, with the tag line: ‘What doesn’t kill you…will marry your brother.’ Instantly, I doubted the veracity of this — I can’t put my finger on what made me doubtful, I just felt it in my bones, and called my brother. ‘Jon,’ I said, ‘if I had athlete’s foot and it didn’t kill me, would you marry it?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘And I’m already married to Mary, as you know.’ I do know this, just as I know that, if you can’t trust a film’s tag line, there may be trouble ahead.

This is billed as a ‘comedy’ and, while it’s true that I did laugh quite considerably, and at one point laughed so hard my drink came out my nose, I was only ever laughing at it in disbelief. You Again isn’t just risible, it is hilariously risible. It may even be more hilariously risible than risible ever has the right to be. ‘Laboriously contrived’ doesn’t even get near it. No character, for example, behaves as any character in real life would but, even so, they are all incapable of staying in character. They are inexplicably benevolent one minute and inexplicably hateful the next. It’s as if the scriptwriter looked at characterisation and simply decided, ‘Nah. I can’t be doing with any of that. Let’s go out for chips.’ In this sense, it may even be the funniest film of the year,


The story, if you are still with me, and I won’t blame you if you are not, concerns Marni (Kristen Bell), a successful PR who heads home for her older brother’s wedding and discovers he is marrying her arch high-school nemesis, Joanna (Odette Yustman). Marni and her brother are close. ‘You have always protected me,’ she keeps cooing at him. So why she didn’t know who he was marrying until 48 hours before the event is, I suppose, anyone’s guess, particularly as she is also bridesmaid. I’m assuming that if you throw out characterisation you can throw out narrative coherence, too. Who needs it, anyhow? I don’t even think they teach it at film school any more.

And there are added complications because, as it happens, Joanna’s aunt (Sigourney Weaver) and Marni’s mum (Jamie Lee Curtis) also have history going back to high school. Can you believe it? Well, in real life, no, but this is You Again, in which laboured contrivances can happen, again. Ms Weaver and Ms Lee Curtis are both fine actresses and, for all I know, they initially imagined they could bring some kind of believability to their roles, but they soon got over that, and opt for over-the-top flouncing instead. There is a dog, Coco Pops, and I feel most sorry for him. He probably had no say in being attached to this project and may never work again.

The ‘comedy’ is mostly reduced to formulaic slapstick: if there is mud, someone will take a pratfall in it; if there is a tureen of soup, it will be upturned over someone’s head; if there is a swimming-pool, someone will be pushed in, fully dressed; if there is a tree house, it will fall out of the tree. I suppose that, if you could take this film seriously, you would worry about its misogyny and portrayal of all women as petty-minded, shallow, dumb, crazed bitches which is absurd, particularly as I, for example, am only a petty-minded, shallow, dumb, crazed bitch on Mondays and Fridays (and every other Wednesday). Most women I know have at least one day off.

Meanwhile, the film ends zanily with a plane crash that wipes them all out. I wish. No, it’s one of those orgies of crying and hugging and learning plus a last-minute wedding held in a hospital ward that, within seconds, plucky Marni — that is, plucky one minute, non-plucky the next — manages to transform into something akin to the Grand Ballroom at The Dorchester. This is when my drink came out of my nose. I don’t know where the beds and patients went, but, if they were tipped out on to the street, they might have been thankful. Obviously, you are not stupid enough to go and see this film, even by mistake, but in a strange way I do feel rather sorry for you. I’m still laughing now.


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