Wetherspoon and co make for easy laughs

Cert: 12A ***

WHEN Charlie’s Angels director McG meets Simon Kinberg, writer of the original Mr and Mrs Smith script, the result is big, brainless fun. Throw a great cast into the mix, ensuring they can deal with some incredibly cringeworthy clichés, and you’re onto a dumb-but-enjoyable winner.

When CIA agents FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) fall in love with the same girl (Reese Witherspoon) it’s time for all-out war. And that’s as complex as this film gets. Sure, there’s a subplot involving an evil looking guy who wants to wreak revenge on the pair, but that’s not important. It’s not that important to the two CIA agents either, who spend most of their time ogling Witherspoon’s endearing character Lauren Scott operating government surveillance technology.

But Pine and Hardy are infectiously entertaining, messing about like two 12 year olds in their portrayal of a convincing bromance. Consequently, the film rarely gets bogged down by, y’know, serious stuff. Chelsea Handler gets some typically “hilarious” lines as Scott’s no-nonsense best friend, but This Means War is all about how much fun the three leads are having and it’s a surprisingly fun way to spend an hour and a half.

Cert: 18 ***

The Cannes-lauded study of a paedophile keeping a young boy locked in his basement, Austrian film Michael follows five months in the life of a very average thirty something man (a fittingly uncharismatic Michael Fuith) who works in insurance, comes home and eats a carefully prepared meal with the 10 year-old living in his basement. He then rapes him, cleans himself, then goes to bed. There is no explanation offered, Michael suffers no visible guilt and how he managed to kidnap the young boy in the first place is never alluded to. The world outside doesn’t exist – Michael doesn’t even know the name of the German Vice Chancellor. All that matters is his daily routine.

Though the banality makes the few scenes dealing with the sexual nature of their relationship even more repulsive, the film’s attempt to be monstrous in its total lack of monstrosity sometimes falls just short. It illustrates how normalised unspeakable horrors become in everyday reality and, for the most part, this is a successful character study of a character you’d prefer not to study. Sometimes it’s almost too banal, as if director Markus Schleinzer wants to desensitise his audience to the film’s horrifying core. Yet it is the film’s distinct lack of feeling that gives rise to the the sharply mixed emotion created by watching Michael. Distasteful as its subject is, there’s no denying the power of this terribly ordinary film about a terrible un-ordinary man’s actions.

Cert: 15 ***

Stressed out? So are Linda (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) as George’s job gets downsized and they’re forced to move in with Linda’s irritating brother in Atlanta. On the way over, however, they stop off in Elysium, a paradise land where materialism means little and freedom is everything. Soon, though, it becomes clear that this idyllic place might actually be more trouble than it’s worth.

If you’re going to cast a light-hearted romp with a big, fluffy, sentimental, I’ve-really-learnt-something-about-myself theme, then Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are your best bet. Both effortlessly likeable and displaying spot-on comic timing, the pair are the ideal strained couple learning how pointless worldly goods (like clothes) are. It’s not the laugh-a-minute riotfest it should be as for every gag that works, there are another two misfires, but if it weren’t for some strong directorial work from David Wann (Role Models) and Rudd’s ability to give that little something extra to a fairly run of the mill script, this would flop. As it stands, Wanderlust emerges as a satisfactory little vehicle for Rudd’s usually pitch-perfect comic performance style and another solid movie to pop under Aniston’s belt.