Vice ★★

So Adam McKay's prestige schtick is officially "Funny or Die: Prestigious but Not So Serious." With The Big Short, McKay had to come up with unique ways to funnel dense information about the housing market crash that caused the 2008 recession and that included asides with a Margot Robbie bubblebath, Selena Gomez at the poker table, and Anthony Bourdain in a hot economic kitchen. With Vice, a biopic of the Vice President who institutionally fucked America by provided a blueprint of institutional fuckery without Presidential oversight, McKay has something pretty straightforward that he tells with similar asides and Funny or Die scenarios. They don't land the way they did in The Big Short because they don't guide us like a Greek Chorus, but instead merely poke prestige. Yes, Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell have their famous individual mannerisms down (Bale as Dick Cheney and Rockwell as George W. Bush). But the entirety of Vice feels like a feature length scam, something that never plumbs the depths of character and is more content to announce that a Shakespearian soliloquy is coming and then perform it in the Cheney's bedroom. Bale put on all that weight, including gaining lobster-sized hands, for something so light that it flutters away as soon as it's over.

I keep trying to think, in this day and age when we're already so dangerously politically siloed, who is this movie for? Vice continuously uses focus groups as an arena for jokes (including a mid-credits scene) and in the first focus group, the GOP discovered that American couldn't understand the war on terror unless they could name a country that they were going to war with, this movie feels like a focus group for liberals who are so under water and out of touch with how we got where we're at that they need one individual to pin the entire downfall of democracy on and this movie points every pillar of agreed upon incorrectness (Fox News, the Iraq War, money in government, donations, etc. etc.) to being held up entirely by things Dick Cheney has done. It's so simple in its reduction that it pisses me off, honestly, and I even despise the way this political party operates. It's so simple to just be like, here's the guy who did it all, folks!

Vice already feels horribly dated in 2018 and that this type of film might hit harder with some distance from Trump. Here, it's an ugly prestige toadstool that actor's guilds and actor worshippers will fall over themselves simply because there are decent impersonations and some body mass gains. But Vice never does anything probing enough to warrant Bale's scale. I guess he might win an Oscar, but that's truly the most boring outcome possible from this movie and even that recalls the focus groups asides because you could just vote for Bale based on the trailer and the oh wow look at his bigger gut and sausage fingers and already have your mind made up that he did a phenomenal job. But if you're truly interested in this period of American history and the makeover of the entire government at the turn of the century, please watch The Power of Nightmares instead. Also, that one doesn’t have the director of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby admonishing the audience for being too dumb to follow clandestine politics due to low brow culture. Yeah, McKay was making that during Cheney’s Vice years so it’s pretty rich coming from him. (btw big fan of McKay’s comedies but this is definitely the pot calling the kettle black.)

Ultimately, you take from Vice the same baggage and ills that you brought in. Unless you're clueless and looking for a simple answer, which McKay then closes with scolding you for.

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