“Vice” Is Not An Adam McKay Fun-Fest: Be Warned

Adam McKay’s new film “Vice” focuses on the Vice Presidency of Dick Cheney under George W. Bush. The director of “The Big Short” previously helmed “Anchorman” (2004), “Talladega Nights” and “The Other Guy.” McKay wrote and directed this film and is nominated as both Best Director and for Best Screenplay among the 6 nods from the Golden Globe awards.

The true wheat amongst the chaff here is Christian Bale’s amazing transformation from, well, Christian Bale, into the heavyset, overweight, middle-aged, follically challenged Cheney. Hats off to the make-up crew!

Amy Adams also received a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actress and Sam Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor for playing a somewhat clueless George W. Bush.

Given the fact that McKay wrote for “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 and has a partnership with comic talent Will Ferrell (“Funny or Die” is their channel), this is more in the spirit of “The Big Short” than of his previously silly films, but is not nearly as story focused

THE GOOD

Obviously, when this many nominations are given for acting, the acting is great. (Not to mention the make-up.)

As for the screenplay, it is crammed with so much  that you will drown in numbers, figures, and much, much more. It was not the movie I thought I was going to see, as I thought that Hollywood directors had  this “FOCUS! FOCUS!” part down, (whereas my screenplay efforts are always accused of containing too much and being all over the place, even when they win awards).

For the “good” list, let’s just mention some of the superlative performers (besides those already mentioned above) who put in an appearance:

Steve Carrell – his wife was an early improv partner of McKay’s. He plays Donald Rumsfeld.

Alison Pill – she had a fairly large role opposite Sarah Paulson on the clown episodes of “American Horror Story.” She plays Mary Cheney (the gay one).

Justin Kirk – You will recognize Justin Kirk, who plays Scooter Libby, from “Weeds.”

Jesse Plemons – Kurt – Jesse was in both “Fargo” and “Breaking Bad.” I did not like the way in which his character was integrated (or not integrated) into the plot, and I was always told that “voice over” was lazy writing. So much for that advice.

Tyler Perry – Yes, THE Tyler Perry, plays Colin Powell

So, the cast? Uniformly good. I watched a documentary (Errol Morris) on Donald Rumsfeld called “The Unknown Known” at the 2017 Chicago International Film Festival and Rummy comes off as just as big an SOB here as he did there.

THE BAD

The acting cannot overcome the incessant barrage of facts and data, some of which are incidental to the story. We all know that there is a drug epidemic going on, but why do we see close-ups of a victim being treated with NarCan, for example, or forest fires in California? For that matter, why did Gerry Fraser photograph it in such a herky-jerky fashion that it was like rewatching Costa Gravas’ “Z”, (which pioneered hand-held camera work) or “The Blair Witch Project.” The close-ups were not fun for the audience.

There’s just too broad a net thrown over this whale. It may be nominated for Best Picture, but it was a disappointment to me, as we drove around on Christmas Day for an hour and fifteen minutes trying to get in to a 3:10 or 3:55 showing, only to ultimately give up.

The political implications and message did not offend me, a journalist (Yahoo Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics) who did not much care for George W. Bush and thought him incompetent, but Republicans won’t like it. As for me, the film is too jam-packed with too much detail to carry the plot of how Cheney became our “acting President,” (whether he ever earned the honorary title or not).

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