Tinashe Kusema The Big & Small Screen —
ADMITTEDLY, over the years I have been very hard on Kevin James and his unique blend of “fat jokes” inspired movies.
Both on and off this column, I have called him some unsavoury names, some of which I am ashamed came out of my mouth but refuse to take back.
I find my hate/love relationship with the James brand of comedy strange, because despite all the name calling, lame and sometime humourless jokes, I am a big fan of the guy.
Behind “Friends”, “Big Bang Theory”, “Will and Grace” and countless other sitcoms — “The King of Queens” is one of my favourite television shows. It might not be in the Top 10, but it’s definitely in the Top . . . 200. Television shows aside, it is on the big silver screen that I have a problem with Kevin.
Paul Blart, and its 2015 sequel, was a total bust. “Zookeeper” does not even deserve to be called a movie and the only movies I did enjoy he was well supported by a group of actors or I simply could not see him (voice over).
When he does take himself seriously, as an actor, he tends to be watchable and extremely funny.
“True Memoirs of an International Assassin”, the latest Kevin James project, is one such film. The film is part of the never-ending deal between Netflix and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison, but unlike its predecessors; “Pixels”, “The Do-Over” and most recently “The Ridiculous Six” — the film is much more than a bunch of lame, brush jokes strung together for 90 minutes.
The film follows Sam Larson (James), an overweight budding writer who dreams of becoming a published author. His latest piece of work “True Memoirs of an International Assassin”, becomes an instant hit, largely due to the fact that most of its material is loosely based on an real spy and actual events.
Convinced of the book’s authenticity, a Venezuelan revolutionist El Toro (Andy Garcia) then kidnaps Larson and hires him to kill then country’s president Cueto (Kim Coates).
Given the nature of the country’s political scene, Larson also then gets kidnapped by a Russian mobster Anton Masovich (Andrew Howard) and the president Cueto himself.
All three men, the most powerful individuals in Venezuela, wanted to kill each other and all expect Larson, now operating as his “Ghost” persona, to do the deed. Spoilers aside, the film is very entertaining and this despite some of James “fat jokes”.
The key here is that the James type of humour is subtle and if one blinks long enough you are likely to see the 45-year-old either fall, bump into something or simply received that glare from a beautiful woman. Performance wise, the film’s supporting cast really shines in this one.
Yes, James is the star of the film, commands the bulk of screen time and saves the day at the end, but he literally gets out-shined in almost every scene along the way.
My favourite part of the movie was the duo of Rob Riggle and Leonard Earl Howze as the CIA operatives William Cobb and Michael Cleveland, who for some reason know what is happening to every character and provide commentary for every sub-plot.
Their job is to monitor and maintain the status quo within Venezuela but they go the extra mile and make little bets and interfere when things do not go their (US way).
Riggle and Howze have strong chemistry and keep the comedy chops flowing freely and elegantly. Their timing, with jokes, is good and delivery even better. While James carries the weight with the physical comedy and stunt work, these two do a good job as supporting acts.
Garcia, surprisingly, is not bad at both the comedic beats of the film and playing the villain. Garcia to his credit brings the menace of his “Ocean’s 11” Terry Benedict character, but balances it with cuddliness of an old but not senile grandfather. All in all, behind 2012’s “Here comes the Boom”, this may go down as my second favourite Kevin James movie.
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