Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14

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30 MINUTES OR LESS While I've seen worse comedies this year, I haven't sat through any as unpleasant as 30 Minutes or Less. Never mind that newbie screenwriters Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan loosely based their script on a real-life incident that ended in death (their claims to the contrary are blatant lies); if there's one thing we've learned from a century-plus of cinema, it's that just about any subject can explored for potential humor if the right people are involved. But in the case of 30 Minutes or Less, the right people must have been off making another movie. A shrill, clumsy film that has no idea how to orchestrate its black-comedy maneuvers, this finds Jesse Eisenberg cast as Nick, a pizza delivery man who's kidnapped by two grade-A doofuses, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson). Needing $100,000 in a jiffy, the pair strap a bomb to Nick and inform him that he must rob a bank or else the device will explode. A frantic Nick gets his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) to participate, but matters only get more hectic, not less, in the aftermath of the heist. Eisenberg fares best simply by not straying far from his patented persona (The Social Network star even gets off a joke about Facebook), but whoever thought that casting three irritants like McBride, Swardson and Ansari in the same film was a good idea clearly has a much higher threshold for obnoxious behavior than I do. The shocking story behind this largely laughless endeavor is that it was directed by Ruben Fleischer, who previously teamed with Eisenberg on the wild and witty Zombieland. But while that engaging effort brought new life to the zombie flick, this one is strictly dead on arrival. *1/2

ZOOKEEPER Leave it to Zoolander to have the foresight to succinctly sum up Zookeeper. In that 2001 comedy, Owen Wilson's Hansel blares, "Taste my pain, bitch!" — a declaration that Kevin James was directing at me for the duration of this ghastly film's 100 minutes. I'm sure that taste will still be lingering in my mouth in December, when it's time to draw up the year-end "10 Worst" list. For now, I'm reduced to shedding a tear over our animal friends: Between this and Mr. Popper's Penguins, they're having an especially bad summer. The screenplay cobbled together by five writers curiously spends a lot more time on the bland romantic woes of Kevin James's zookeeper Griffin than on the talking animals, although there is a protracted subplot in which Griffin bonds with a lonely gorilla named Bernie (Nick Nolte!) by taking him to TGI Friday's. James always projects a sincerity that's missing from too many of his lowbrow peers, but when all is said and done, he's still about as funny as head lice. Adam Sandler's monkey gets off a couple of good cracks, but otherwise, the animals (lions voiced by Sylvester Stallone and Cher, bears voiced by Jon Favreau and Faizon Love, etc.) prove to be even more dull than the humans, never doing anything remotely interesting or amusing. Replaying Zookeeper in my mind draws up another Zoolander quip: "I've got a prostate the size of a honeydew and a head full of bad memories." Nothing wrong with my prostate, but, man, does my brain need a detox. *


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