Top One Movie of the Week: Holy Rollers, MacGruber, and Shrek Forever After

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Our critics choose between Holy Rollers, MacGruber,
and Shrek Forever After.

ANDREW: So, we’ve been doing this column for a couple of months now, and to date, none of my weekly picks are likely to wind up on my annual Top Ten list (except maybe, possibly Please Give, which, though slight, was still a pretty solid night at the art house). But maybe things are about to change. Maybe this week Hollywood will release one of the best films of 2010! (Or maybe we’ll just have to flip a coin between the latest unnecessary SNL flick and the latest unnecessarily "3-D" CGI extravaganza.) Let me just check the new release schedule and…shit. Guess I might as well start polishing my lucky Bicentennial quarter for this week’s coin flip, unless indie director Kevin Asch‘s Holy Rollers manages to pull an upset. On the one hand, the true-ish premise (Hasidic Jews selling Ecstasy in ‘90s New York) and the prospect of Jesse Eisenberg in peyes running from the mob while romancing Top One Movie sweetheart Ari Graynor sounds downright charming. But on the other hand (as Tevye the milkman would say), there is no other hand! Because though I was only vaguely aware of Holy Rollers until a few minutes ago now that I’ve seen the trailer, I’m thinking Asch’s little Sundance underdog may be this week’s film to beat. Your thoughts, Rabbi Von Doviak?

SCOTT: So quick to dismiss the comedic goldmine that is MacGruber? I think any movie that features Val Kilmer as a supervillain named Dieter von Cunth is deserving of serious consideration.  Admittedly, I do have a few qualms about the latest SNL spinoff: first and foremost, it’s the latest SNL spinoff, and as much as I enjoyed our man Phil Nugent’s recent evaluation of the Lorne Michaels canon, that’s a movie species I’d hoped would be extinct by now. True, MacGruber can’t possibly be worse than It’s Pat or A Night at the Roxbury, but that’s setting the bar so low we’re liable to trip over it. Aside from facing the usual problems posed by stretching a five-minute, one-joke sketch to feature length, MacGruber is also an action-comedy, which is a genre tightrope that’s particularly tricky to walk. The multiple explosions tend to drown out the laughs. Given that I haven’t followed Saturday Night Live closely in years, I have absolutely nothing to say about star Will Forte, but Kristin Wiig is a reliable (if increasingly overexposed) comedic presence, and of course, there’s von Cunth! But, I don’t think I’ve talked myself into it. So I’m guessing I haven’t talked you into it, either.

ANDREW:  Well, it’s hard to argue with von Cunth, and it’s not that I’m against SNL movies on principle heck, I even liked The Ladies Man. But none of the MacGruber clips I’ve seen thus far have prompted so much as a smile from me, let alone a guffaw (or a ROFLMAO, as the young people would say). Sure, some crappy movies burn through all their best jokes in their trailers, while the brilliance of certain comedy classics isn’t conveyed in short, gag-packed promotional snippets plus, it’s been suggested that some of the best parts of Jorma Taccone‘s big-screen MacGuyver parody are simply too dirty to include in the film’s ad campaign but it’s gonna take some pretty rapturous word-of-mouth to get me to gamble on a so-called "comedy" starring Ryan frickin’ Phillippe. Especially since the preview features scenes like Will Forte’s talking about taking an upper decker, then explaining the meaning of the term "upper decker," which doesn’t exactly bode well for audiences who prefer to figure out such witty wordplay on their own. So I guess that leaves us with the vocal stylings of  Forte’s fellow SNL-ers Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers in Shrek Forever After, assuming you didn’t get enough of the titular ogre the first three times.

SCOTT: Oh, I’ve had more than enough Shrek for one lifetime, and I never even saw the third one…in fact, I’m not even sure I saw the second one. Is there really enough room in one summer for both Toy Story 3 and Shrek 4? I suspect so, even though the trailer for the green guy’s latest screen adventure reeks of desperation. Was this series always so reliant on crude bodily-function humor, or is it just that the stink of The Love Guru has followed Mike Myers back to the franchise that’s keeping his career afloat? No, I think your initial instincts were correct. I can’t say I’ve been waiting my whole life for the world’s first Hasidic drug thriller, but now that it’s here, I’m certainly much more intrigued by Holy Rollers than either the feature-length SNL skit or the return of ogre and donkey.  That’s not me hating on mainstream Hollywood entertainment, that’s just good common sense, and it’s my pick for the Top One Movie of the Week.

ANDREW:  To be fair, I should state for the record that I really enjoyed the first Shrek (and its celebration of diversity and positive body image for princesses and whatnot).  And I also enjoyed Shrek 2 just not as much.  But Hollywood in general (and Mike Myers in particular) never seems to learn the meaning of the phrase "diminishing returns," and so (despite a pretty good joke about Puss in Boots expanding to the size of a fuzzy basketball, like most real cats I know), I’ll stick with my original instinct and join you in declaring the Jesse Eisenberg/Ari Graynor Ecstasy caper our Top One Movie of the Week. It’s a mitzvah!


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