⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for language, brief violence and nudity.
The comedy of embarrassment reaches mountainous heights of mortification in this delicious English trifle. Writer/star Steve Coogan (“Philomena”) has been playing the hapless Partridge character, a no-talent talk show host, for more than two decades on TV, making him the spiritual father of Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy and Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. Relentlessly inept — he was canned by the BBC after accidentally killing a guest — Alan has arrived at midlife.
Working the afternoon slot at a marginal radio station, Alan finds his employment on the line when new management sweeps in with a cost-cutting agenda. He succeeds in getting them to sack another broadcaster (Colm Meaney), who returns to the office with a shotgun and the misguided notion that Alan was his only friend at the job.
Delighted that the crisis has put him at the center of a media frenzy, Partridge tries to string out the negotiations to prolong his moment in the spotlight. That means enabling the madman with a gun to his co-workers’ heads. More important, it means ratings. Alan, who can always be counted on to say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, and drop trou in the most humiliating circumstances, bumbles his way to heroism. Recommended without hesitation.
Ben Kingsley classes up this ambitious if muddled World War II drama about the Holocaust in Hungary. Kingsley plays Miklos Horthy, regent of Hungary during the war. He gives the leader, an ally of Nazi Germany, a complexity — balancing cooperation with Hitler with a self-righteous neutrality about the nation’s Jews — that Horthy himself would approve.
Irish actor Jonas Armstrong is Elek, a Jewish college student whose swing-dancing good times come to an end in early 1944, as Hungary comes under the administration of Nazi SS Col. Adolph Eichmann (Charles Hubbell). The war has turned against Germany, but Eichmann has arrived to ensure that Hungary’s Jews, mostly protected under the Horthy regime, face the same fate as those of Poland, France and the rest of Europe.
The dialogue sounds as if it came from a World War II Movie Dialogue Generator, and not from nine credited writers.
Only Kingsley comes out unscathed, lured into this project by the scant few good scenes and the very best lines.
ROGER MOORE (MCT)
THE MISSING PICTURE
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Mature themes.
Theater: Walker Art Center, 7:30 p.m. Fri., 4 and 7:30 p.m. Sat, 7:30 p.m. Sun.
Cambodian-born director Rithy Panh films clay figures in richly detailed dioramas representing his family’s experience of deportation, re-education and suffering during the Marxist nightmare of the genocidal Pol Pot regime. When he came to power in 1975, the tyrant set about transforming Cambodia into his notion of an agrarian utopia. His Khmer Rouge emptied the cities, abolished money, private property and religion and set up rural collectives characterized by slave labor and forced starvation.
In narration that is poetic and historically astute, Panh layers his own memoir atop his nation’s. The visuals are even richer, intertwining colorful traditional dance footage from the pre-civil war era, propaganda and documentary films, and the colorfully painted figurines and sets representing Panh’s memories and fantasies. Ideology-based dogma “all starts with purity and ends with hate,” Panh observes. But as his work demonstrates, there’s another possible outcome: the creation of art that inspires empathy and advances understanding.