Winter Movie Preview 2012: Comedy & Romance

Winter comedy and romance revolves around Valentine’s Day, so things don’t get promising for the genre until February. The types of comedies offered in the early going this year are surprisingly diverse including a couple niche market family comedies, a couple action comedies, a Nicholas Sparks-inspired romance and an Apatow-produced comedy. 

Joyful Noise (Jan. 13)

Written and Directed by Todd Graff
Starring: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan

Summary: After inheriting a struggling church choir, Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) must play nice with the boisterous G.G. Sparrow (Parton). Meanwhile, Sparrow’s grandson (Jordan) shakes things up in the choir including getting the attention of Vi Rose’s daughter (Palmer)

The Word: Seems like everyone’s finding their voice these days. How are we ever going to live in a censored dystopian society? Anyway, you can thank “Glee” for Hollywood’s perceived increase in demand for music-filled movies such as “Joyful Noise.” That’s perfectly okay by writer/director Todd Graff, whose passion has always been making music films. He previously directed Vanessa Hudgens in “Bandslam” as well as the aptly titled “Camp,” a 2003 film with a big gay and lesbian following.

My Thoughts: Expect at least a decent soundtrack from this movie, but it will take a lot more than Parton’s self-deprecating plastic surgery humor for this small-town comedy/drama to connect with an urban audience.


One for the Money (Jan. 27)

Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
Written by Stacy Sherman and Karen Ray, Liz Brixius, Janet Evanovich (novel)
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Debbie Reynolds, Sherri Sheppard

Summary: When lingerie saleswoman Stephanie Plum (Heigl) finds herself without a job, she turns to her cousin, a bail-bondsperson, who gives her a job as a bounty hunter, essentially. Turns out her first assignment involves bringing in a former lover who dumped her some time ago.

The Word: Heigl gives the rom-com another whirl, this time with the help of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling book series (despite some obvious similarities to 2010’s Jennifer Aniston film “The Bounty Hunter.” Frequent TV director Julie Anne Robinson, whose last film was “The Last Song” with Miley Cyrus, lead the all-female directing/writing crew. Liz Brixius, creator of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” did work on the script.

My Thoughts: Why Heigl won’t try her hand at something better blows my mind. She obviously doesn’t know a good script, or maybe just doesn’t read them. Perhaps “Knocked Up” was really an anomaly and not indicative of her potential as an actress. She did decently last time she opened a film in January (2008’s “27 Dresses”), but this one is more similar in premise to “Killers,” her biggest dud. Success would like be thanks to the books’ following.


The Vow (Feb. 10)

Directed by Michael Sucsy
Written by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman

Summary: A married couple is forced to start all over when a car accident causes the wife (McAdams) to lose all memory of her husband (Tatum).

The Word: This year’s big date movie is “The Vow,” which puts together an all-star rom-com tandem in McAdams (“The Notebook”) and Tatum (“Dear John”). Although both of those films were adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels, that’s not the case here, but creating that uncertainty seems to be the goal. Director Michael Sucsy won a Golden Globe for his fictional remake of the documentary “Grey Gardens,” while co-writer Katims won an Emmy for “Friday Night Lights” and co-writers Kohn and Silverstein helped pen “Valentine’s Day” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

My Thoughts: I love McAdams, and I don’t think Tatum gets enough credit, but here’s a story that looks a bit too cookie-cutter to be taken seriously as a romance. Those talents will do their best to move the audience to tears and I suspect they’ll succeed, but let’s not confuse emotion for quality.


Perfect Sense (Feb. 10 – limited)

Directed by David Mackenzie
Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green

Summary: A chef and a scientist fall in love and start a relationship just as an epidemic starts to slowly deprive people of their senses, one at a time.

The Word: Apocalyptic science fiction meets romance in this British film that premiered at last year’s Sundance and will finally hit theaters this Valentine’s Day. Hard to blame IFC for waiting until then for this little film which has gotten some kind reviews in the last year during its many festival stops. McGregor and Green are terrific veterans for a story such as this.

My Thoughts: I love any kind of sci-fi hybrid, so it’s hard to pretend I’m not interested in this unique romance. The world epidemic motif has been done and done again, but one that effects your senses play so perfectly into challenging our definition of love, among other basic pleasures in life.


This Means War (Feb. 17)

Directed by McG
Written by Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, Marcus Gautesen
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler

Summary: Two CIA operatives find out they are dating the same woman (Witherspoon). Rather than dump her, they decide to let wait it out and see who she picks, which leads them to use all kinds of spy tactics against each other.

The Word: Director/producer McG steps behind the camera for the first time since “Terminator Salvation” and into a genre he knows well: action comedy. The “Charlie’s Angels” director gets two of the hottest rising stars in Hardy and Pine along with veteran Witherspoon to further draw in the ladies. Dowling wrote “Role Models” while Kinberg is one of 20th Century Fox’s go-to writers. Unsurprisingly he wrote “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”

My Thoughts: It would seem that “This Means War” has the right talents in place to make something as entertaining as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” albeit probably nowhere near successful. Hardy and Pine are still just faces to this point and Witherspoon, who used to command one of the highest salaries in Hollywood, has lost a little of her mojo with “Water for Elephants” being a moderate success and “How Do You Know?” a total bomb. Still, “War” could end up one of the most successful and popular films of early 2012.


Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (Feb. 24)

Written and Directed by Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad

Summary: A wealthy businessman (Perry) lives a good albeit predictable existence, but his encounter with a struggling single mother (Newton) leads him to question what he wants out of life.

The Word: Perry continues to be a powerhouse at writing, directing and producing his own films. He takes center stage in “Good Deeds” without the fat suit in his first offering of 2012. Newton adds another recognizable element that might help the filmmaker appeal to a wider audience.

My Thoughts: Perry’s films offer few surprises. Somehow he manages to tell the same family driven story with the same core values a hundred different ways, some humorous and some more dramatic. Although “Good Deeds” might draw interest from outside of the Black community, at the same time it might be less appealing to the fan base that loves the “Madea” films and Perry’s sitcoms.


Wanderlust (Feb. 24)

Directed by David Wain
Written by David Wain, Ken Marino
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Malin Ackerman, Ray Liotta

Summary: A married couple is forced to leave New York after the husband (Rudd) loses his job. After an unbearable stop with family in Georgia, they head to a bed and breakfast that happens to be a hippie commune.

The Word: It’s been quite some time since “The Object of My Affection” —  am I right Rudd and Aniston fans? “Wanderlust” was pushed back from last October, but “Role Models” and “Wet Hot American Summer” director David Wain should be enough to make this comedy worth a look as the winter’s only “traditional” modern comedy. Wain teamed up with his “Party Down” and “Children’s Hospital” star Ken Marino to work on the script as well.

My Thoughts: I love Rudd as I recently proclaimed in my “Our Idiot Brother” review, and he should counterbalance Aniston, who despite a great turn in “Horrible Bosses” seems to be back to the usual material. Other than recycled hallucinogenic drug sequence, the film shows promise, plus I have to give Wain the benefit of the doubt here. Marino is also an under-appreciated comedian.


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