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The Exorcists 

Rom-coms expel their demons, Deliver still cursed

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Reviews

THEY CAME TOGETHER. This, the latest from The State alums David Wain, Michael Showalter, et al., isn't playing here. It has only had a small theatrical opening in major cities, but, thanks to the dubious miracle of modern technology, They Came Together is concurrently available to stream on-demand from a variety of outlets. It seems like cheating, I know, but if a Luddite like me can figure out how to do it, it's fair game. Even if I couldn't manage it on my own, I would coerce a loved one, because everything these guys touch is made golden.

Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play Joel and Molly, who, over the course of a double date with Kyle and Karen (the often painfully funny Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper), recount the charming tale of their romance. The setup is a little clumsy, but that's because writers Showalter and Wain (the latter also directs) use every cliché of the romantic comedy genre against itself. The dinner table recounting of a meet-cute turns into the most effective skewering of rom-com tropes in recollection. Molly owns a too-precious, little candy shop, staffed by her token black friend. The store is falling into the shadow of the monolithic Corporate Candy Company. Guess where Joel works?

The plot, as it were, is little more than a sketch, and that's all it needs to be. It creates an environment where the leads (and a collection of fractured-archetype supporting characters) can fall down stairs, call each other unspeakable names and do all the other things that make Wain movies what they are. This one isn't quite as on-point hilarious as Wet Hot American Summer (2001), but what is? It does, however, manage to retain some of the earnest sweetness of Role Models (2008), alloy it with the genuine absurdity of The Ten (2007) and create something simultaneously predictable, surprising and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. R. 83m.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL. The antithesis of something as easily enjoyed as They Came Together is self-important dreck like this. Where the former makes good fun of lampooning genre, the latter clings to conventions with misplaced fervor and is no fun at all. James Wan's work notwithstanding, no other genre has so consistently failed to live up to my already sub-basement level expectations like possession/exorcism movies. And guess what? This is no exception.

Supposedly what we're subjected to is based on actual events, which I can only hope is true. Absent that tiny glimmer of authenticity, we are left only with yet another beyond-derivative version of the same old thing. William Friedkin told this same story exceptionally well with The Exorcist (1973), and nobody has really added anything to the conversation since. Maybe it's time to hang it up.

Eric Bana, who I like as a leading man, plays NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie. Complete with bogus Bronx accent and needlessly wisecracking partner (Joel McHale), he takes on the worst the city has to offer. When a series of unexplainable, interrelated events threaten Sarchie's sanity and family, he turns reluctantly to Catholic priest/exorcism bad-boy Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez). Things go exactly as one might expect.

There are moments within Deliver Us From Evil that are genuinely scary, but they are too few, too far between and too disjointed to sustain any sort of tension. The movie can't settle on a tone, or even a point of view, and it never delivers. It's not dark enough for real horror fans, probably too dark for anybody looking to just pass the time and generally too self-serious to be any fun at all. R. 118m.

OBVIOUS CHILD. I was pleasantly surprised to see this in a local theater. Sure, it's being promoted aggressively on a variety of social media platforms and starting to get traction nationally. But it's an indie about a female standup comic having an abortion after a one-night stand — hardly the stuff of box office gold, especially for our local theater operation. (Lest we forget, this is the same company that in 2012 opened Dinesh D'Souza's birther screed 2016: Obama's America in the biggest auditorium at the Broadway multiplex. But I should just hold my tongue and be thankful.) Star Jenny Slate has generated a lot of buzz for her lead performance here, and with good reason. She'll have to share some of the credit with writer-director Gillian Robespierre (and a few other contributing scribes), but she deserves praise and then some for her portrayal of troubled Donna Stern.

Within days, Donna finds herself without a relationship or a day job. Her relationship with her mother is strained, her boyfriend has taken up with one of her close friends and she's so depressed she can't even turn it into usable jokes. In the midst of this morass happens handsome, affable Max (Jake Lacy). After their drunken tryst, Donna discovers she's pregnant, decides to have an abortion and can't figure out what to do with Max.

Obvious Child works remarkably well on a number of levels. It neatly sidesteps the treacly nonsense of most rom-coms (see above), while still servicing the real-life actions and emotions from which other dumber movies are drawn. In addition, it takes on the meaning of abortion in a woman's life in a more even-handed, realistic way than I've seen in cinema. And it is frequently hilarious, which doesn't hurt. R. 84m.

John J. Bennett

Previews

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Chimps on horseback — that's just wrong. Can Gary Oldman's scrappy band of survivors save humanity from winding up the losers of evolution? PG13. 130m.

Continuing

22 JUMP STREET. It ain't broke, and they ain't fixing it. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as undercover cops busting a college drug ring in this funny and self-aware comedy. R. 112m.

CHEF. Jon Favreau stars in this well done food-truck road movie that cuts through professional kitchen bravado to real humanity and warmth. With Robert Downey Jr. and John Leguizamo. Bring napkins. R. 115m.

EARTH TO ECHO. A group of youngsters find a friendly alien and help him phone, ahem, sorry, get home. PG. 89m.

EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as soldiers battling aliens in a post-apocalyptic Groundhog Day loop. Clever, slick and utterly forgettable. PG13. 113m.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Beat the rush and start crying now. Adapted from John Green's novel with excellent performances from Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as the young, star-crossed lovers. PG13. 126m.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. Transportive animation and talented voice acting create a world worth revisiting and a story with humor and real drama. PG. 102m.

JERSEY BOYS. Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Broadway musical about the Four Seasons has the music and the look, but the story is the same old predictable song. R. 134m.

MALEFICENT. An atmospheric, good-looking fantasy with a sharpened Angelina Jolie as the fairytale party crasher from Sleeping Beauty. Heavy on CGI, light on character and not quite scary enough. PG. 98m.

TAMMY. Melissa McCarthy plays a woman on a wild and wooly rock-bottom road trip with her hard-drinking grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon. R. 102m.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. Even game actors and fun cameos can't save the planet from the thin plot and epic running time of the latest Michael Bay disaster. He might have tried more dinosaurs. PG13. 165m.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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John J. Bennett

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