Let's talk about sex... comedies:
Amy Schumer has built her career on the comic persona of the matter-of-fact slut, and she doesn't stray very far from that in Trainwreck, her big screen debut as star and screenwriter. Amy plays (surprise!) Amy, who's big on casual sex, not so much on commitment (in other words, a "typical man" in female form). In this role-reversal scenario, Bill Hader plays the thankless "girlfriend" role, that apparent rarity in the Schumer universe, a guy who calls the day after sex and likes to spoon. Although comedically well-partnered, there's little romantic spark between the two, leaving little dramatic drive once the plot inevitably gets to the "will they or won't they get back together" stage.
Director Judd Apatow once again gives his cast free reign to improvise, resulting in an excruciatingly unfunny "intervention" scene where Matthew Broderick appears as himself for absolutely no reason... maybe he was visiting the set that day? Other famous faces make the most of their supporting turns, notably a "yes, that's Tilda Swinton" Tilda Swinton as Amy's over-tanned, Miranda Priestly-ish boss, and pro wrestler John Cena, deliciously hilarious as a muscle hunk who can't quite get the swing of talking dirty during sex. Another sports star, basketballer LeBron James, pops up as himself in a cameo and then never leaves, assuming the role of overprotective "gal pal" to Hader in a never-ending, not-as-hilarious-as-they-think-it-is subplot.
Aside from the gender swap of the traditional leads, Trainwreck is your basic romantic comedy, complete with forced happy ending. I can't help but wonder that if this were a skit on Schumer's acerbic TV show that the resolution would have been far more daring.
Magic Mike bumped and ground itself into pop culture consciousness in 2012 and, despite being a darker look into the world of male strippers than the marketing led on, was enough of a hit to spawn a sequel last summer. The cheekily titled Magic Mike XXL is closer to what we all expected the original to be, a free-wheeling party thrown by a bunch of greased-up, half-naked dudes. It is also one big mess of a movie.
XXL does jettison the two weakest links from the original cast (Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn) but also lost its strongest (Matthew McConaughey as stripper guru Dallas). The remaining cast, lead by Channing Tatum and including Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, are saddled with a ludicrous road trip to a stripper convention (?!?) plot. This is Magic Mike-land, so naturally they strip along the way: for a random convenience store clerk, for a cougar-ish Andie MacDowell, for no reason. The absurdity never ends, culminating in an epic strip spectacular staged like a naughty trade show. It's all more ridiculous than arousing and, trust me, the bountiful eye candy is not worth sitting through this embarrassment.
Where stars Amy Schumer and Channing Tatum stumbled, a cast of unknowns score with the Australian film The Little Death (now streaming on Netflix). A series of interconnected stories all built around suburban couples exploring their kinkier sides, The Little Death (a slang term for an orgasm) is funny, sexy and relatable in ways Trainwreck and Magic Mike XXL don't even consider let alone attempt. From a role-playing husband who gets carried away to a wife who gets turned on when her husband cries, writer/director Josh Lawson (who also co-stars) mines the inherent humor found in sex in general and fetishes in particular. Seek it out.
Magic Mike XXL: D
The Little Death: B
Trainwreck, Magic Mike XXL and The Little Death are now available on Blu-ray and/or DVD:
Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.