Grindhouse-style 'Happy Birthday' talks its sadistic head off

There’s a fine line between mocking obnoxious bro behavior and celebrating it, and writer-director Casey Tebo’s “Happy Birthday” too often falls on the wrong side of the divide. Though well-acted and stylish, this meta-grindhouse exercise strains under its own self-satisfied cleverness.

Matt Bush stars as Brady Baxter, a nebbishy Hollywood assistant who takes an impromptu birthday trip to Mexico with his rich buddy Tommy (Riley Litman). Their planned epic debauchery gets scuttled when they meet two women (Britne Oldford and Vanessa Lengies) who kidnap and torture them, claiming to be working for a drug lord.

For a while, “Happy Birthday” has some fun with its sucker-punch, as Brady and Tommy come to regret wanting to experience the gamier side of a foreign country. But while the movie is skewering these dudes’ preconceived notions of Mexicans, women and the criminal underworld, it’s indulging in its own stereotypes about all three.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

Tebo brings some admirable ambition to this microbudget project, adding in flashy camera moves, digressive stories-within-stories, and a couple more major plot twists. And it helps that he has such a strong young cast, supplemented with character turns by Erik Palladino as a Tex-Mex cowboy and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler as a shaman.

But from the overwritten, pop-culture-reference-laden dialogue to the incessant attempts to be shocking, “Happy Birthday” tries way too hard. For a movie that doesn’t have much to say, it sure never stops jabbering.

-------------

‘Happy Birthday’

MPAA rating: R, for sexual content, language throughout, some nudity, drug use and violence

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

 

photo Grindhouse-style 'Happy Birthday' talks its sadistic head off images

photo of Grindhouse-style 'Happy Birthday' talks its sadistic head off

Relax Grindhouse-style 'Happy Birthday' talks its sadistic head off stories

Connections are elusive in the dreamy Cabo drama 'El Ganzo'

A voyage south of the border is a truly strange trip in Steve Balderson’s “El Ganzo.” His stars, Anslem Richardson and Susan Traylor, take co-writing credits in this tale of two wandering souls who cross paths at the hotel El Ganzo in Cabo San Lucas. Lizzy (Traylor), endures a fender bender en route

'The Green Fairy' is a groan-inducing fantasy nonfiction ode to absinthe

The belief that absinthe induces hallucinations is the stuff of ignorance and myth, as “The Green Fairy,” a “fantasy documentary” about the long-banned quaff, goes to tortured lengths to chronicle. But consider it a matter of scientific certainty that the film will induce groans from its audience.

Evil spirits crash the wedding in Marcin Wrona's funny-spooky 'Demon'

“Just a normal wedding,” the mother of the bride sniffs more than halfway through Marcin Wrona’s “Demon.” She’s exaggerating a little. By that point in this Polish-set matrimonial horror film, the weather has taken a foul turn, a few guests have come to physical blows and the groom has been confined

'For the Love of Spock': A warm father-and-son trek

Just as Leonard Nimoy had an uneasy relationship with his famous alter ego, his standing with his son wasn’t always on terra firma, as explored in Adam Nimoy’s honest but warmly affectionate screen memoir, “For the Love of Spock.”

Colorfully animated 'The Wild Life' is light on heart

The story of Robinson Crusoe, loosely based on the real-life experiences of castaway Alexander Selkirk, has been told multiple times since Daniel Defoe's 1719 epistolary novel. But what if it were related from the perspective of the animals and local wildlife he encountered during his

It's all in the family for Kevin Smith's sloppy horror-comedy 'Yoga Hosers'

“Yoga Hosers” is a spinoff of Kevin Smith’s last film, “Tusk,” a project that he conceived of on a podcast and then took to Twitter for a fan vote. In “Tusk,” a grotesque horror comedy about a man being turned into a walrus, Smith’s teen daughter Harley Quinn Smith and co-star Lily-Rose Depp

Danish shock comedy sequel 'Klown Forever' falls flat

Like “American Pie 2,” “The Hangover Part II,” and much of Sacha Baron Cohen ’s post-“Borat” output, “Klown Forever,” the sequel to Denmark’s raunchy hit, “Klown: The Movie,” illustrates the diminishing returns inherent in going back to the shock comedy well.

Cleverly derivative 'Carnage Park' grinds out homage

Most B-pictures imitate other movies, but writer-director Mickey Keating’s “Carnage Park” steals so freely that it almost becomes derivative in an original way. Equally inspired by Quentin Tarantino , the Coen brothers and the seediest of ‘70s drive-in exploitation, “Carnage Park” is a frequently

More stories

Recent Post

Recent movies