comedy

MAN UP

man-up-movie

2015 – When chronically single Nancy (Lake Bell) is mistaken for divorcee Jack’s (Simon Pegg) blind date, she decides to play along.  

If you’re looking for a clever, touching alternative to the execrable Silver Linings Playbook – a movie that doesn’t coddle its characters or talk down to its audience, a movie that’s dialogue-heavy but never feels tedious, a movie about real feelings and not trite Hollywood angst – look no further.

The real enjoyment of watching a romantic comedy is being able to picture yourself as one of the leads. If done properly, you should be thinking, “Hey, I’m not terrible-looking and have a sense of humor! If I played my cards right, this same thing could happen to me!” Man Up presents a dating scene that should be all too familiar to 30-somethings, a place where disappointment, divorce, and the inevitable cynicism are all too common.

Just about everyone can relate to Nancy’s situation in the opening scenes: forced into a disastrous blind date by a few well-intentioned friends. Her sister Elaine (Sharon Horgan) encourages her to keep her chin up and be impulsive. After an encounter with an obnoxiously chipper 20-something (Ophelia Lovibond), Nancy decides to do exactly that and allows an improbable string of circumstances to connect her with Jack. As you might expect, their date goes better than either of them could have expected… until an obsessed ex-neighbor and a vindictive ex-wife arrive on the scene.

The film takes place pretty close to “real time,” encompassing the events of one afternoon and evening. While a modest run-time helps keep the movie taut and crisp, it also helps itself by continually upping the stakes. While we enjoy watching the two leads move through their awkward first date conversations, we’re also kept in suspense by one sub-plot after another: will Jack find out that Nancy isn’t the “Jessica” he was expecting? Will creepy stalker Sean (Rory Kinnear) mess things up? Will Nancy make it in time for the speech at her parents’ 40th anniversary party?

Man Up is definitely written with a certain Generation X audience in mind – people in their 30s and early 40s who have been through the dating ringer, have faced ruined relationships and even failed marriages, and are yearning for the kind of connection their parents seemed to have. Millennials, a lot of whom live in broken households and think a “relationship” is three dates with someone you met on Tinder, won’t get it.

It also toes the line between a traditional romantic comedy and the more popular gross-out humor of today. There are a few scenes, mostly featuring the Sean character, that just don’t jive with the  overall tone of the movie. These slight inconsistencies are like the off notes that the doomed flutist was playing in Red Dragon in that they made me take notice, but fortunately not enough for me to want to butcher and eat someone.

Things recover quickly, though, thanks mainly to how charming Bell and Pegg are in their respective roles. There isn’t a lot of screaming and wailing, but there is a lot to appreciate about the acting. Paired with an overall positive tone and a strong cast of supporting characters, it’s enough to push Man Up into the must-see echelon on Netflix.

Advertisements

IMPRACTICAL JOKERS

LOOK! THEY'RE FUNNY!

LOOK! THEY’RE FUNNY!

2011 – Present: Four hideous mutants amuse each other on camera.

This is one of those “make people awkward or upset and then reveal it was all a prank” things, like Candid Camera or Punk’d. Usually these shows involve a random person (or, occasionally, a celebrity) being manipulated by a talented comic, an individual who is able to slyly play with social conventions to maximize the awkwardness of the situation. In addition to the initial “Ha! Look at those idiots” response, we’re able to enjoy them because we can imagine our own reactions as the hapless victims.

Impractical Jokers flips this formula for maximum lameness: each of the four purportedly “funny” hosts will be forced to carry out an embarrassing mission by the other three. So instead of watching people on the street and thinking, “Wow, that might be me,” we’re watching the hosts and thinking, “Wow, they’re… stupid.” A typical set-up involves one host trying (read: failing) to be amusing in any way, interspersed with shots of his three cohorts braying like jackasses.

They are far more amused than you will ever be.

They are far more amused than you will ever be.

The show also keeps track of which host “fails” the most pranks. So it’s like a game show, but with the same four guys as contestants every single time. Who will win? Who will lose? Who cares? We don’t know these guys. It’s their show. They function as both the subject and the audience. As punishment for the “loser,” he must once again do something awkward (for him). This is an incredible and crippling format failure. Add to that the fact that the hosts form a quartet of the most atrocious-looking and comedy-less boobs to ever appear on television and you’ve apparently got a recipe for total success (the show is now in its fourth season).

Joe, Murr, Q, and Sal (Note that whatever Sal is looking at on his phone is more interesting and amusing than anything on the show)

Joe, Murr, Q, and Sal (Note that whatever Sal is looking at on his phone is probably more interesting than anything on the show)

I happened to tune in to an episode from the second season, which originally aired in January 2013, and my God was it bad. These guys are not funny. They can’t keep their composure. They can’t improvise. Immediately after being presented with their scenario, they giggle, break character, or stutter and stammer like total amateurs. Since they can’t think up good material on their own, their buddies feed them lines via a hidden earpiece. This leads to long pauses where the joker stands there going “Uh… um… so, yeah… uh…”

One scenario challenged the Jokers to convince people that fake words were real (sort of like Balderdash). Here are the words they came up with: Dwimplepeen. Cafafee. Jampaloon. Goofdookie. Note that they all feature a double E or double O. We are dealing with some real comic masters here. How do the Jokers get someone to admit that they think the word is real, you might ask? Joker: “But you’ve heard of it, right?” Purported Victim: “…Yeah.” WINNER.

Simply incredible.

The “main event” involved the Jokers trying to convince people to house-sit for them, despite an awkward situation in the bedroom. Murr’s featured a lot of princess toys and costumes. His reaction upon entering the room, as a pro: a chuckle, a hand over his mouth, and an “Um…” His buddies then fed him his lines, which he repeated after much hesitation and foot-shuffling. Q’s scenario: a room full of taxidermy. His reaction: “These are, uh…” At a complete loss for words. Then THE “VICTIM” of the “prank” bailed him out by suggesting, “Your little pets?” He replied, “Yeah, uh, you know, we got a fox… uh…” When the supposed comedians are the ones being put on the spot and unable to think of what to say, your show has a major problem.

Murr ended up being the loser (and with these four guys, that’s saying something). His punishment: take a lie detector test in front of the students and faculty of the Jokers’ old Catholic high school. Oh, boy! They’re really gonna nail him with some priceless zingers! Witness these questions, which are guaranteed to humiliate poor Murr and reduce the audience to fits of uncontrollable laughter:

“Do you wax your back?”

“Do you secretly enjoy boy bands?” (“Busted!” one of them howls. WHY DO I CARE?)

“Did you have a crush on one of your high school Spanish teachers?”

“Have you ever tried your girlfriend’s underwear on?”

Hint to the Impractical Jokers: it’s not funny if the answer to all the bad stuff is “yes.” You know the punchline as soon as the question is asked. It kinda ruins the comedy. Another thing that ruins the comedy: reacting the same way over and over. Keep in mind, Murr has been doing this kind of thing for years, and supposedly knows how to wring the maximum amount of hilarity out of a situation. I present a montage of his reactions to three questions asked in the lie detector session, and you tell me if you (or anyone) could do better:

Professional comic at work.

Professional comic at work.

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill: rarely has so little talent resulted in so few laughs for so many.

IN A WORLD…

2013 – Vocal coach Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) lives in the shadow of her father Sam (Fred Melamed), Hollywood’s go-to movie trailer voice, as she tries to break into the field.

I liked this movie. What’s wrong with me? I need to find one I hate, STAT.

Sort of an “awkward comedy” (the kind where you grit your teeth and wince instead of laugh out loud), sort of a drama, In A World… has no right to be as good as it is. The central drama is the race to get movie trailer voice-over jobs; there are a ton of characters; it’s one of those “written, directed, and starring” things that are usually so insufferable. But writer, director, and star Lake Bell manages to establish a convincing world populated by unique, engaging characters, creating a true Netflix gem.

You know the “in a world” guy, right? Don LaFontaine was basically the God of movie trailers, and his trademark phrase, “In a world where…” was used so often that it’s become a cliché. In a World… takes that obscure bit of pop culture trivia and makes it the premise of the movie: they’re going revive that phrase in the trailers for an upcoming Hunger Games-esque “quadrilogy,” and competition for the voice-over is going to be fierce.

Reigning champ Sam Sotto claims he doesn’t want the job. He’s sponsoring up-and-comer Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). Sam’s daughter Carol has always dreamed of a job like this, but is trapped by the voice-over industry’s glass ceiling for women – and also just accidentally slept with Gustav at a party. Meanwhile, she has to deal her father’s young new wife Jamie (Alexandra Holden), awkward co-worker Louis (Demetri Martin), and sister Dani’s (Michaela Watkins) troubled marriage with Moe (Rob Corddry). We’ve only got 90 minutes for all this. Sheesh.

Although it seems to be Bell’s first full-length screenplay, the movie doesn’t fritter away any time. The plots are woven together so that every scene contributes to the overall dramatic momentum. With so many names and relationships and so little time, it’s a credit to the movie that I only lost a few here and there (I didn’t realize Dani was Carol’s sister until halfway through).

It’s not perfect; some of the gags are definitely more funny in theory than in practice. One sub-plot – Moe’s seeming crush on his flirty English neighbor – seems to vanish without a trace. Otherwise, this movie serves as a wonderful reminder of just how much you can do with an hour and a half.

The film’s signature achievement is that it made me really care about the jerk from Hot Tub Time Machine. Beyond that, In a World… gives us some good old-fashioned heart-warming reasons to stay engaged. A daughter secretly wishes to make her father proud; a nerd works up the courage to ask out his crush; a long-time couple struggles in the face of suspected infidelity.

Heartily recommended. Oh, and Eva Longoria appears for two minutes. What was she famous for again?

EXTRACT – 8/27/2014

2009 – Written and directed by Mike Judge (!!!) and meant to be a “companion piece” to Office Space (!!!!!?!?!???!?!?!?!??!!!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?!)

Here’s an important life lesson you can learn thanks to Extract: very few people in show business are naturally funny. You can take an actor who was funny in one thing, put him in another thing, and watch him fail miserably. For instance: the quirky, off-beat cast of The Whole 9 Yards, who became some of the least funny people on Earth in The Whole 10 Yards. Remember when Dana Carvey had that one stand-up special that people would quote endlessly? Dana Carvey, meet The Master of Disguise. The cast of Seinfeld, Jennifer Aniston… the list goes on.

To bring the discussion around to the terribly-plotted, atrociously-paced, sloppily-constructed Extract, consider Jason Bateman. Very funny in Arrested Development. Here… somewhat less so, despite the fact that he’s trying to play the exact same character. But it’s not entirely his fault. The plot of Extract is so Byzantine, so full of pointless characters, and so lacking in any kind of comedic or dramatic momentum, that it almost defies my ability to describe it. But I’ll try.

Joel (Bateman) is the owner of an extract bottling company. He’s in a bit of a funk because his employees are a pain and his wife Suzie (Kristin Wiig) never wants to have sex.

Super original comedy innovation #1: Wives never want to have sex with their husbands. HAH! That’s such a refreshing new twist on marriage!

We get to meet some of the delightfully unique and charming employees at the extract plant, like The Two Racist Ladies, Hector the Hispanic Guy, the Dumb Guy Who’s In A Band, Stupid Hick Step (“Step” is his real name), and Spider-Man‘s J. Johan Jameson Guy. It turns out that General Mills might want to buy the company, which Joel would love since he’s sick of being the boss. On his way home from work, Joel runs into his annoying neighbor Nathan (the guy from Anchorman who yells “WHAMMY!”). Nathan wants him to go to some kind of dinner.

Super original comedy innovation #2: The annoying neighbor. This character just slays me! He is a socially clueless boob who never stops talking! DOUBLE HAH!

Back at the factory, the Two Racist Ladies stop working because they suspect Hector the Hispanic Guy is being lazy. Through a Rube Goldberg-esque series of mishaps, there’s a big accident and Step ends up getting his testicles blown off.

Super original comedy innovation #3: Groin shots. I guess it still would have been hilarious if Step had lost, I don’t know, a kidney in a workplace accident, but he gets hit IN THE BALLS. That’s what makes it so funny! If you like ball jokes, and jokes about not having balls, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep in mind, we’re now almost a half hour in and this impending train-wreck of a movie is only starting to pick up steam. Evil hot girl con artist Cindy (girl who has that lesbian scene with Natalie Portman in Black Swan) reads about Step’s accident and plans to seduce him with her purportedly irresistible hotness, convince him to sue Joel’s company, and get rich off the proceeds of the lawsuit. So she gets a job at the factory and pretends to hit on Joel in order to get Step’s contact information. Joel, thinking she was flirting, ponders having an affair with her.

But wait, there’s more hilarity still to come! Ben Affleck is in this movie! He plays Dean, Joel’s ne’er-do-well buddy. Thinking that Joel should relieve his sexual frustration with the seemingly willing Cindy, he suggests they hire a gigolo to tempt Suzie to have an affair of her own so Joel won’t feel guilty about his own potential affair afterward.

What?

Super original comedy innovation #4: The hero’s lazy stoner best friend who comes up with all manner of zany schemes. What a delightfully original idea! This character is completely different from the hero’s lazy stoner best friend in Office Space, because here he’s portrayed by noted thespian Ben Affleck.

Now things are really going to get popping. Joel agrees to Dean’s scheme because he accidentally took some drugs (drugs are always funny – just ask Philip Seymour Hoffman!). So goofball gigolo Brad sleeps with Suzie. Joel is furious, but doesn’t have the guts to approach Cindy. Cindy, meanwhile, has been stealing things from people at the factory and they all blame Hector the Hispanic. I guess that’s funny… or ironic?… or something.  The lawyer Step and Cindy hire is played by Gene Simmons of Kiss fame, for absolutely no reason at all. So now General Mills doesn’t want to buy Joel’s company and he may be bankrupted.

That’s basically the plot of the film. By the time all this gets set up, it’s half over. If it was some kind of fast-paced comedy of errors, that would be acceptable. But Extract is also one of the most sluggish, lifeless, dull comedies you’ve ever seen. Being generous, I’m going to say that Mike Judge needed to make about a half-dozen major re-writes. Then he’d need to consider putting some jokes in.

By “jokes,” I mean better than having Suzie finally yell at annoying neighbor Nathan, and having him die from shock.

Super original comedy innovation #5:  The WACKY death sequence. Did you know that death can be hilarious as well as tragic? I sure didn’t – until I watched Extract!

Not only is this scene filmed in a fashion that is shockingly similar to when the therapist dies in Office Space, but it just isn’t funny. There wasn’t any better or more amusing scenario than to have the guy randomly drop dead? It’s lazy. It’s almost hard to comprehend how a movie can be so lacking in any kind of narrative structure. Characters and sub-plots crop up endlessly and drift off meaninglessly. There’s no rising or falling action. Half the time I couldn’t even tell what was supposed to be funny.

One positive takeaway? I liked Ben Affleck. I think that’s the first time I ever said that.

Girl Most Likely – 7/2/14

2012

Girl Most Likely is to Kristen Wiig what every movie since Anchorman has been to Will Ferrell. I imagine the writing process for it went a little something like this…

Setting: writer’s room for Girl Most Likely. The room is strewn with empty cans of energy drink and cigarette butts.

Time: around 2:43 AM.

Writer 1: I don’t know… I’m still a little confused about our main character. I mean, she seems completely unsympathetic. She’s pompous, egotistical, deluded… she has no real friends, and right from the beginning she seems pretty annoying. Maybe we should give her some kind of redeeming quality.

Writer 2: Aren’t you forgetting something? She’ll be played by Kristen Wiig. From Bridesmaids. Remember her character from that movie? It’s pretty much the exact same one here.

Writer 1: Yeah, but you could actually understand her motivations in that one. Here she just comes across as a spoiled, self-entitled bitch.

Writer 3: IT’S A COMEDY!

Writer 2: Exactly. So anyway, the scene is set: Kristen’s boyfriend is breaking up with her, so to get him back she decides to stage a fake suicide attempt. But then – and this is what the audiences will love – she somehow messes up and attempts suicide for real!

Writer 3: Comedy gold!

Writer 1: Wait, what? I didn’t think we had decided on that yet. It sounds… I don’t know… not really that funny. It actually sounds really cheap. Besides, what kind of awful person tries a ploy like that? It seems like one of those ideas that only looks funny on paper.

Writer 2: Listen, suicide is hilarious. And remember, on the big screen it won’t be just anyone pretending to attempt suicide but accidentally doing it for real – it’ll be Kristen Wiig from Bridesmaids.

Writer 3: I’m laughing already!

Writer 2: So, because of this hilarious misunderstanding, she’s forced to go live with her family…

Writer 3: Oh boy!

Writer 2: …which is just a grab-bag of ridiculous characters!

Writer 1: I see here you have written, “Slutty Mom.”

Writer 2: Yes. Her mom will be a former stripper or something. Basically the worst mom of all time – chronic degenerate gambler, neglected her children, big whore. But eventually Kristen will discover that her mom was really pretty great all along.

Writer 1: How so?

Writer 3: IT’S A COMEDY!

Writer 2: Exactly. And the mom’s younger boyfriend will be a real nut. He’ll claim he’s in the CIA and have all these crazy stories about his adventures.

Writer 3: Oh man, don’t tell me! Don’t tell me what HILARIOUS twist you’ll have in mind for THAT character!

Writer 2: Oh, let’s just say that perhaps his ridiculous claims may not be as outlandish as you at first suspect!

Writer 3: HA! You’re a genius!

Writer 1: And you have another character marked as “Awkward Brother.” Let me guess: That’s her lovably awkward younger brother who provides a lot of innocent screwball-type humor?

Writer 2: Correct. Imagine him being played by Zach Galifianakis… but we can’t afford him, so we’ll get some guy nobody’s ever heard of to sort of do the same thing.

Writer 1: Oh, God. Who is “The Other Young Guy Who Lives In The House But Isn’t Her Brother”?

Writer 2: Right. You’re never going to guess this, but he turns out to be Kristen’s love interest. I say you’ll never guess it because, although he’s the only other unattached male character in the film, they don’t seem to hit it off at first. At all. In fact, they may be openly hostile to each other. But then it turns out that they really get along. Complete surprise, right?

Writer 1: How do you figure out that they get along?

Writer 2: They sleep together. After he gets her drunk.

Writer 1: WHAT?!?

Writer 3: IT’S A COMEDY!

Writer 2: So a bunch of stuff happens, yadda yadda… Oh, right. The big reveal is that Kristen’s father, who you think is dead the whole movie, turns out to be alive. The whole “death” thing was a story thought up by the Slutty Mom to spare the kids the agony of divorce.

Writer 1: Fine. Sounds great. Perfectly logical.

Writer 3: And funny. Funny in the kind of way that will make people laugh like, “Oooooh-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoooooooo!”

Writer 2: Don’t worry, though. The dad turns out to be a real elitist scumbag. So there’s some more zany hi-jinx, Kristen’s boyfriend insults her old Uncaring Superficial Friends, and everyone becomes successful and happy. That’s the end.

Writer 3: Flawless. Now let’s get started on Anchorman 2.

ZANY MISCELLANY 2

I won’t deny it – my viewing selections have not exactly been stellar of late. In fact, there was one to which my only written reaction was: “???” But here are a few remarks about some of the startlingly jejune features I’ve seen recently.

COTTAGE COUNTRY (2013)

A sort-of-spineless, down-on-his-luck fat guy (usually played by Kevin James, but here played by Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’s Tyler Labine) accidentally murders his annoying brother at their family cabin. He and his fiancée (Malin Akerman, who has one of the most finely sculpted posteriors I’ve ever seen on film) conspire to cover it up.

It’s not nearly as entertaining as it sounds or as funny as it wants to be, but it really put something in perspective for me – I probably won’t get married until I find a girl who’d be willing to cover up a gruesome murder with me. Think about that. Is there any greater test of devotion in a relationship? And I’m not talking about a “somebody’s kid runs in front of your car and you can’t brake in time” scenario – I’m talking a full-on “I grabbed the letter opener and severed someone’s jugular” thing.

ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008)

Is it safe to say that Kevin Smith “is over”? I’ve only viewed a couple of his movies, but I’m reasonably confident that he hasn’t made a good one in 14 years. This is the most painfully unsuccessful attempt at Judd Apatow-ing I’ve seen.

For a guy who is regarded as such a witty, incisive writer, Smith employs some of the most tired comedy cliches you can imagine: the hot girl who is inexplicably seen as undesirable by most men (Elizabeth Banks); the annoying overweight loser who somehow ends up with said girl (Seth Rogen); the race-sensitive angry black guy (Craig Robinson); the black guy’s intimidating, ball-breaking wife; the high-strung Indian store owner. Oh, and it’s set in Pittsburgh, the New Jersey of Pennsylvania.

One last note: it struck me that much of Seth Rogen’s “comedy” (in this and most of his other films) consists mainly of stating, loudly, what is happening. Honestly, watch any Seth Rogen movie and count how many times he just describes what is happening or says what he’s doing. It’s astounding. I don’t seen why he gets dumped on for making The Green Hornet when he was also involved in this lackluster affair.

THE CROODS (2013)

Nicolas Cage plays the father of a caveman family. Emma Stone plays his daughter. Ryan Reynolds plays… a somewhat more advanced caveman, I guess. None of these people make the slightest attempt to sound like the role they are playing. The movie was alright, but forgettable.

STALLED (2013)

This is one of those movies that is “written by and starring,” which is never a good sign. I don’t know why I watched it. A janitor gets trapped in a women’s restroom and encounters an all-out attack by a horde of zombies. How do you “encounter” an attack? It didn’t even sound good. I like movies that challenge themselves with a limited setting, but spending an hour and a half with a guy trapped in a bathroom stall? That’s pushing it.

Stalled can’t figure out whether it’s funny or scary or angst-y. There are odd inconsistencies – sometimes we can’t even hear the dozen or so zombies that are milling around literally inches away. My biggest complaint is the ending, which is unnecessarily mean-spirited on a couple fronts.

SERENITY (2005)

I loved Firefly, the TV series to which Serenity is a sequel – but, like everyone else, I only discovered it after it was canceled. I had put off watching the movie because I had heard it was something of a downer. It was that, but it was also exciting, creative, witty, fast-paced, touching, and ultimately optimistic. Obviously it helps if you’ve seen the TV series, but the movie does a good job of introducing you to the characters and their backgrounds on its own. The concept that drew me to it in the first place – a “Western in space” – probably limited its appeal with the general public, which is a shame: what could be more uniquely American?

This is the kind of film that people should be making more of – original, inventive, and not afraid to push unexpected buttons. It cares about it’s characters, it doesn’t condescend to the viewer, and it tells its story without wasting your time. It’s hard for me to believe that the man who made such an enjoyable, breezy, spirited movie also made a plodding, soulless ordeal like The Avengers.

DEREK – 4/21/14

Watching a series like Derek gives you a brief, cruel burst of hope for mankind – brief because there are only seven episodes, and cruel because you realize that people like this just don’t exist.

The show focuses on the employees at an under-funded nursing home: the kind-hearted and innocent Derek (Ricky Gervais), hard-working manager Hannah (Kerry Godliman), cynical caretaker Dougie (Karl Pilkington), and perverted slacker Kev (David Earl). We see how, together, they care for the (impossibly good-natured) elderly residents and interact with the (mostly callous and craven) folk who populate the outside world. It’s sort of an English Forrest Gump, but the characters are even more difficult to understand.

Filmed in a “mockumentary” style similar to Gervais’s The Office, Derek provides some decent laughs but also a surprising number of heartfelt moments. It’s not afraid to drop the comedy altogether; there are solid stretches of the show that are heart-wrenchingly sad. I got hooked from the first episode and watched the rest over the course of a weekend. That doesn’t happen very often.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I had to object to the central premise of the series. “It’s more important to be kind than clever or good-looking,” Derek remarks in the first episode, and as the series progresses more and more characters are won over by his simple commitment to being nice to everyone.

Unfortunately, this just wouldn’t work. It may not be the stuff of which great sit-coms are made, but Scrooge McDuck gave us a much more accurate quote in Mickey’s Christmas Carol: “Kindness is of little use in this world.” It’s sad but true: if your plan for success in life is to be a nice, kind person, the world is going to treat you like a gas station bathroom. Think about it: if kindness was a recipe for success, everyone would be doing it. But look around you. Doesn’t seem like it’s catching on, does it? The complete opposite, however, is true: the richest and most successful people are almost uniformly the most loathsome human scum you can find. And it’s directly proportional: the higher up the person is, chances are they had to be an even bigger bastard to get there.

“But being nice means you’ll make a lot of friends,” you say. Maybe… but think back to your years in school. The kids who were the “jerks” always seemed to have people to sit with at lunch anyway, didn’t they? Of course they did! They usually had more friends than anyone else. One of the (many) mistakes I made at school was trying to be nice to everyone. This is the equivalent of spinning Elmer Fudd’s shotgun toward yourself and yelling, “Duck season, shoot!” Don’t think it’ll help you with the opposite sex, either. Ray Rice beat up his fiancée and dragged her, unconscious, out of an elevator – a month before they got married. Nice guy.

“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” you say. False. Try calling customer service somewhere and see how much satisfaction you receive from being nice. Then listen to someone who calls and absolutely rips the customer service person a new one – who gets what they wanted faster? Don’t think that things will change as you grow up, either. Have you ever noticed that it’s always the kindest, nicest people who run things at the office? Exactly – I haven’t either. In my first professional job out of college, I decided that I’d succeed if I was as kind and helpful to everyone else as possible. I was marked down on my review because I tried to help people too much. I was told that if someone asked me for help, I was supposed to say, “No. Ask someone else.” I got paid less because of this. No joke.

Derek starts out sweet. It’s got a feel-good message that makes you want to run out and hug people, brightening their lives and reveling in the recognition that naturally springs from the doing of good deeds. But after it’s over, Derek makes you sad, because the world simply doesn’t work that way.

No matter how much you wish it did.