Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE RENTAL

Finally, a slow burn horror/thriller film that is decently developed during that down time in the first act. Then, when the shit hits the fan in acts two and three, the shit really, really hits the fan. Some will argue that THE RENTAL is a little too conventional for Dave Franco’s theatrical length directorial debut (he also co-wrote this). I would argue that not only is that okay when the rest of your film is downright entertaining as hell, but it should be completely ignored when you prove that you have a promising eye behind the camera. Dave Franco, he’s honestly not that great of an actor. He’s very limited when in front of the camera, but that is just my opinion of course. However, with this first big-ish feature, kind of like Ben Affleck’s first film, Gone Baby Gone, he shows that maybe he should do what Ben Affleck couldn’t: quit his day job. His future is bright and I hope he takes more roles behind the camera from now on (and none in front of them). Whether that happens remains to be seen but I have a good feeling about it. Granted, there are some flaws in the woodwork, such as the real villain isn’t ‘revealed’ until too late in the feature, all of the characters (except maybe Alison Brie’s and some aspects of Jeremy Allen White’s) are very, very unlikable, and some of the suspense could’ve been slowed down instead of rushed at times. Overall though, the hell of a good time I had with this movie is worth the price of rental (pun intended) alone.

Per IMDB, The Rental stars Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White and is described as: “Two couples rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend get-away.” That log line is perfect. It teases with the words, ‘what should be’ and just leaves it at that. I need to get into some of the details of the story just a tad more for my review, mainly so I can give my critique acting wise.I promise to still not reveal much. Jeremy Allen White is Dan Steven’s character’s brother in this, he’s considered the “black sheep” of his family, and his girlfriend is someone that Dan Steven’s character closely works with. Any other reveals would ruin everything. Everybody acting wise, does a great job here, especially Dan Stevens, even though that most of the things these characters wind up doing throughout this film make them completely un-sympathetic to the audience, unlikable and they all look really fucking dumb. Two exceptions to my train of thought. First off, the only reason why Alison Brie’s character may come off as unlikable is due to the fact that she makes some really dumb fucking decisions in this movie and isn’t shown doing much else. Her character has a decent personality, but she really isn’t given much of a back story for the audience to invest any likable feelings at all toward her. I have a feeling that a few more scenes of her, a well written background, and an actual narrative arc could’ve made her the only character we sympathize with, which would strengthened the impact of some of the shit that goes down.

Secondly, Jeremy Allen White at least doesn’t play the typical “black sheep of the family” movie trope. He knows he fucks up and he’s actually generally sorry for what he’s done, even though he keeps on keepin’ on fuckin’ up. But with The Rental, you don’t really stay for the likability of the characters or some of the cliched dialogue, you stay for the last hour of pure…shit fan hittin’…madness. And that’s maybe why it could be argued that these characters are supposed to be unlikable, because you can’t wait for the bad shit to keep happening to them. For these clueless people renting this cliff side cabin/home, they keep making the dumbest fucking decisions possible, and with each passing minute you can’t wait for the next fuck up, which is only maybe 1 to 2 minutes after the last. That’s why some of the movies’ payoffs from the slow set ups in the first act are so juicy. You want to, but you just can’t look away from the bloody mayhem that follows. I just wish that the movie had set up the ‘villain’ a tad bit earlier, it felt like his reveal was almost too little too late. Not quite though for me here. Also, while Franco has an eye for the camera, the cinematography in this is excellent the shots are framed perfectly, there were a couple of moments that need more…oomph, shall we say. More tension that leaded into more pay off jump scares. I know his intentions were pure in that the movie is supposed to be more traumatic and creepy than it is a loud, big noise, unearned jump scares galore, teenage bullshit horror film, but some of the “gotcha!” pay offs needed just a tad bit more build up and they would’ve been masterful. However, for the first time in a long time, The Rental is a rental I’d rent more than once.



If someone were to put a needle in my arm, filled with COVID-19, and say to me, “you have to review EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA in only one sentence or we are going to expose you to this virus,” well, the current me would say, “go ahead, make my day.” But if I were in a better mood I’d confess, “The movie is only worth watching once because of Rachel McAdams and Dan Stevens alone, Will Ferrell is awful in it, and the second half is better than the first.” I think they’d allow me a run on sentence, don’t you agree? I think that sentence describes the film excellently. If Rachel McAdams weren’t in it and if she just wasn’t just so damn charming as hell, this whole movie would’ve been another Will Ferrell clusterfuck. Because he is annoyingly awful in it. Like you want to choke him to death just so he’ll shut the fuck up kind of awful. This is another one of his long title comedies, and he used to be able to get away with just yelling random shit that made absolutely no sense. That was only acceptable (and sometimes hilariously funny) more than a decade ago. It no longer works. And while the film has a pretty solid 2nd half (we get some good random jokes that are paid off well from the beginning), the first half is so boring, awful, and goes nowhere to the point that I just can’t quite recommend it. That is, unless you are a die hard Rachel McAdams fan, which I certainly am. So do I or don’t I? Depends on my mood.

Per, Eurovision Song Contest is described as: “When aspiring musicians Lars and Sigrit are given the opportunity to represent their country at the world’s biggest song competition, they finally have a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.” Will Ferrell is Lars and Rachel McAdams are Sigrit, and while Ms. McAdams plays the part convincingly, charmingly, and acts like she wants to be there, Will Ferrell is…too much there. If that makes any sense. Compared to McAdams, his Iceland accent is abysmal, and while her facial expressions convey well to the written word of her character, Ferrell seems to put on a new face every couple of seconds, throwing anything at the wall to see what sticks. But nothing does, and this ultimately makes his character a non-character. Just a lame impression you put on at cocktail parties, trying to get a laugh out of a drunken moment between friends, and nothing more. But here, the audience is stone cold sober, and we couldn’t care less. Dan Stevens plays a rival musician from Russia, and he, along with Ms. McAdams, steals every scene that he is in, the movie just needed a better lead. And a better co-writer. Will Ferrell co wrote this with an individual named Andrew Steele. I have a feeling that Ferrell only got a screenplay writing credit because of his improv. Andrew Steele probably wrote the only decent parts of the story. He should’ve given the script to a better comedian instead of Ferrell, you probably just pointed at different parts of the script and said, “I think I’ll just yell and scream something insignificant here.”

The first half is not funny at all, except for a boat explosion, and the movie only gets by because of Rachel McAdams and the believable charming innocence of her character. She literally lifts up the movie on her shoulders. Had she not been in it, I would’ve probably turned it off at minute 20. That’s another complaint, at a little over too hours, the movie is way too long. Could’ve been a much more solid 95 minutes. When you watch it, notice how things that should happen at the start of the 3rd act happen when there is still an hour left of the film, only half way through. The film has very odd pacing issues and it drags in moments that should’ve been entirely cut out of the film. The music & songs, written by Demi Lovato’s (she has a fun little cameo in the movie) song writer, are actually quite good and they keep parts of the movie, that would’ve just dragged everything even further, somewhat afloat. It’s the second half that picks up steam when it actually gets to the heart of the contest, the semi-finals and finals, with cool performances from what I can only guess are real contestants that have actually performed at the real Eurovision Contests in years past and present. Combine those interesting moments with some God damn hilarious elf and ghosts jokes and you’ll probably find yourself chuckling if not laughing out loud a few times toward the end. If only the first half had matched the pacing and wit of the climax.

The film is directed by David Dobkin, director of Wedding Crashers, his first comedy since 2011’s The Change Up (a guilty pleasure for me, it’s that Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman hard R-Rated body switch movie). While everything seemed to me to be just a point and shoot affair, I liked that there was a lot of location shooting in Iceland and possibly at the place where the real Eurovision Song Contest was held. While there was definitely some green screen effects whenever the characters were on boats, the exterior shots of the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland and showing that the actors were actually there was a nice little touch. If you go into this expecting something akin to classics of Will Ferrell’s past such as Anchorman 1 or Talladega Nights or even something like Wedding Crashers, you will come out very disappointed. The film is rated PG-13 and it isn’t really even a hard PG-13, not to say that a harder rating would’ve automatically made this film much better, but I really would’ve liked to see this movie go to darker, raunchier, and funnier places than it ended up going. And Will Ferrell needs to fucking tone it down a bit. You can tell he’s getting desperate for laughs, but in his desperation he is tripping over his own feet. If he keeps this up any longer, he is going to end up flat on his face, no longer able to get up, and his career will end up being an awful dumpster fire saga.