This is not just a bad movie. It is three bad movies. “Killers” is trying to be a romantic action comedy and it fails all three times.
Katherine Heigl plays Jen, on vacation in the French Riviera with her overprotective father (Tom Selleck) and over-drinking mother (a wasted — in both senses of the word — Catherine O’Hara) in after being dumped by her boyfriend. She meets Spencer, played by Ashton Kutcher, who also co-produced, thus explaining the cameo appearance of the camera he sells on TV as well as the loving attention the camera pays to his chest. We know what Jen does not: Spencer is a spy. He kills bad guys but longs for a quiet “normal” life in the suburbs. And Jen, with Heigl delivering a generic “I may be stunningly beautiful but I am insecure and immature so that makes me accessible,” seems just what normal looks like. A little banter and then three years later, they are living happily in a suburban neighborhood, commuting to the office, attending block parties, and making peach cobbler.
And then Spencer’s past catches up with him again when he hears from his old boss and finds out there is a $20 million bounty for anyone who kills him. Spencer and Jen have to go on the run, bickering along the way as though being married to an international assassin was somewhere around the threat level of forgetting to take out the garbage.
The banter is leaden but the bickering is worse. Heigl and Kutcher have anti-chemistry. They seem to repel each other. And then there are the action scenes, soggily staged and with a way over-the-top body count for the movie’s attempt at a light-hearted tone. There’s a flicker of interest in the idea of a complacent suburban community hosting a battalion of killers, but the script fails to take advantage of it. And the ending is so haphazard it seems to have been arrived at by dartboard and so sour it seems contemptuous of its characters and its audience.
A one-joke “Saturday Night Live” skit based on a television series that ended in 1992 has been turned into a no-joke movie that ended 99 painful minutes after it began. It is of interest only to people who think that 80’s references like mullet haircuts, Blaupunkt removable automobile cassette players, soft rock, and many many many potty jokes are always hilarious.
“MacGyver” was a television series about a secret agent who could take a gum wrapper and a bottle of nail polish remover and make it into some very clever device to defeat any threat from any enemy, no matter how high-tech. The series emphasized problem-solving and science over weapons. And now the little boys who grew up watching MacGyver think it is hilarious to trash him by making him into an arrogant idiot.
The SNL skits invariably and tediously show MacGruber (co-writer Will Forte) trying to defuse some bomb with household items only to fail and have it blow everyone up. The movie draws not just from the skits but from a range of 80’s action film conventions. MacGruber is a one-time action hero who has retired to a life of spiritual contemplation after his bride (Maya Rudolph) was murdered at their wedding. He gets a visit from Colonel James Faith (a steely Powers Boothe) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe), asking him to return to service to go after a bad guy played by a beefy and ponytailed Val Kilmer whose character name happens to sound like an extremely crude term for the female anatomy.
MacGruber swings like a pendulum between grandiose self-aggrandizement and humiliating self-abasement. Both are excruciating. He rounds up a team of very big men (played by WWE stars) but accidentally blows them to smithereens so has to work with Piper and his late wife’s best friend Vicky St. Elmo (Get it? Another 80’s reference!), played by the divine Kristen Wiig, who is the movie’s only bright spot. Even the blue eyeshadow and feathered blonde hair can’t hide her brilliance and beauty.
Those for whom the 80’s were not epochal will be bored when they are not being grossed out. Or both at the same time. On the other hand, those who find the idea of a man sticking a stalk of celery in his butt and walking around with his pants off so hilarious that they want to see it twice will be delighted.
Emma Stone’s breakthrough role in next week’s “Easy A” makes this a good time to look at some of her earlier work. She is terrific in this story of a high school rock group.
Pete Best, who was famously kicked out of The Beatles just before they brought on Ringo Starr and rocketed to international superstardom, appears as himself in this movie about a drummer who was kicked out of an 80’s hair band before they went on to such heights of international superstardom that they now speak with cheeky lower-class English accents, even though they came from Cleveland.
“The Office’s” Rainn Wilson plays “Fish,” the drummer still stuck in Cleveland, where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems to be there just to remind him of how much he has lost. Fired from his job, dumped by his girlfriend, he is living in his sister’s attic when, 20 years after he last sat behind a drum kit, he gets one more chance to live the dream. His nephew’s band needs a drummer for the prom.
A video of Fish rehearsing in the nude becomes a viral sensation on YouTube and suddenly the group of three graduating high school seniors and a demented and bitter burn-out is on tour.