EXPECTATIONS: All-time fucking low.
REALITY: Dear Joe,
I know I've managed to bum around the Current Releases office for four years without watching any of "writer-directors" Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's "comedies," and without Ian around to protect me, you've successfully forced my best-laid plans awry. Well played. I don't know if this film will ever make it to theaters (or if it deserves to, even in light of February films like I, Frankenstein) and I don't know if either of our readers are masochistic enough to voluntarily watch a Friedberg-Seltzer film, even if Amazon essentially bribes anyone dumb enough to drop $6.99 on Best Night Ever with a $1 credit in its MP3 store (don't spend it all in one place!), but I do know this: It's impossible to write a coherent review about a film that never coheres, so I'm just gonna forward these notes in hopes that one of our unpaid winter interns (college students, eh?) can stitch them together into something that might, from a great distance, resemble a review. Just make sure I get my byline. Ready? Here we go:
1. Somehow, Best Night Ever received 4.8 stars from the five Amazon users (jimmy pottorff, Ringedrhino, Tyler J Bieniek, A.W., and Bonnie L Jerdon) who were no doubt paid to review it with Friedberg and Seltzer's Spy Hard! residuals and cartel money. A full two-thirds (that's two out of three) of the people who read jimmy pottorff's review ("Really funny scenes and some unexpected ones. Low budget and high in laughs, definitely for mature audiences. Loved it loved it") found it helpful, but reactions were split (that's one out of two) on A.W.'s more tempered, four-star review. Three of those critics have never reviewed anything else. Strangely, the remaining two both happen to own the same cell phone case. And who's this film recommended for? Fans of The Counselor.
There's only one way we're getting out of this one...
2. Critical analysis of found-footage cinema is a relatively new area of study, tossing participatory viewing and the invisible editor into the deep end of that murky swamp full of fiction and photography's mutant bastard children we call film studies. Last month, Ian wrote about Paranormal Activity's gradual transition from found-footage horror to found-footage comedy. And there are moments in which this found-footage comedy threatens a transition to found-footage horror, especially in the absence of laughs. This might seem like dour criticism, but really, Best Night Ever proves Friedberg and Seltzer are working in the wrong genre. Evidence: a night-vision sequence in which characters hide from the cops in a dumpster, a blacklit scene reminiscent of Orphan, startling instances of brutal violence, gleeful amorality and a foot chase shot much like the climax of V/H/S/2's "Safe Haven," with a naked interracial couple standing in for the Indonesian cultists.
3. Before I forget, readers might enjoy a plot summary. Too fucking bad. The interns can piece that one together, provided they've seen The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, The Hangover Part III, Bachelorette, Bridesmaids, Project X, anything on YouTube or Spring Breakers. That's not to say Best Night Ever exists only to spoof those movies - for a Friedberg-Seltzer film, very few of its "jokes" are parodic - just that it's shamelessly derivative, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the moments that make this film vaguely watchable are the ones cribbed from other, better movies.
4. Re: that dumpster scene mentioned in #2: This is an unironically beautiful moment, in which the three bridesmaids attempt to comfort their panicking bride-to-be by singing 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" a cappella amidst a bunch of misogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, fat-phobic bullshit, but such tenuous tenderness is literally detendoned by the sudden, terrifying appearance of the kind of sweaty, crazy-eyed, yellow-toothed hobo that once graced the cover of Bumfights. It's crushing, frustrating proof that Friedberg and Seltzer (or, more probably, their second unit) are somehow capable of transcendent cinema, but they're so compelled to shoehorn every narrative moment into a structured joke with some marginalized social outcast as the punchline - and, look, if you can't craft a decent marginalized-social-outcast punchline, which is honestly pretty easy to do, even if your sole aim is to please a gaggle of fucking morons who would stone homosexuals in the village plaza if there were ever a lack of Friedberg-Seltzer flicks available for streaming on a platform they're probably too stupid to master, at least rely on whatever energy your cast and crew can muster to carry an audience from scene to scene instead of paying some sad-sack never-was to throw on his hobo costume and shout "boo!" at the audience because you have no sense of decency and timing. The montage of our protagonists having good old-fashioned fun, which spans a good third of a movie that barely limps over the eighty-minute line to feature length, proves that energy will suffice in the absence of decent jokes. Sometimes, and maybe only in a Friedberg-Seltzer film, watching characters chug booze, pop pills, steal cars, ride zip-lines and crash parties - all set to techno produced at some music factory to sound like other, better songs (refer back to #3) - is preferable to watching them struggle, in vain, to claw out of the black hole of D.O.A. dialogue and purely commercial cinema that Friedberg and Seltzer have built in the dead-end galaxy of simpering idiots who will stare slack-jawed at the screen and wonder when the hell Timothy Stack is gonna show up.
5. Timothy Stack never shows up, proving that even the star of Son of the Beach has other, better things to do (refer once again to #3).
6. Come to think of it: Where was Timothy Stack?
7. In the "special thanks" portion of the credit, the same people are mentioned more than once. Unintentional error or padding for length? You decide.
8. How embarrassing for Magnolia Pictures.
9. There's a guy in this movie who's supposed to look like Ryan Gosling, but he looks so unlike Ryan Gosling, we're forced to call Friedberg and Seltzer's very sanity into question.
10. [placeholder bullet point in case I'm still alive by morning and wish to think/write about this more before the interns emerge from Montague's cage and piece this all together, but at least I made this a ten-point memo by mentioning Timothy Stack three times, which is, I feel, in keeping with the spirit of Best Night Ever].
|And a Wang-Dang Fuckin' Doo||0/10|
MINORITY REPORT: Last night, I forced the interns to fact-check this review by watching Best Night Ever. I came into the office to find three of them stricken deaf, dumb and blind. The fourth is still at large, presumed to be armed and dangerous. - Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade
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