'Nice Guys' do win

"The Nice Guys" could have easily been called "The Fun Guys," a light-hearted throwback from co-writer and director Shane Black (who penned the "Lethal Weapon" movies).

"The Nice Guys" could have easily been called "The Fun Guys," a light-hearted throwback from co-writer and director Shane Black (who penned the "Lethal Weapon" movies).

This is a film where Black takes his buddy cop comedy formula and sets it right in the middle of the detective films from the 1970s era, with leads Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling making for a pretty entertaining duo.

Crowe plays Jackson Healy a hired enforcer who crosses paths with a down on his luck private eye and single father named Holland March (Gosling), forced to work together to find a missing girl in 1977 Los Angeles.

Their investigation leads them into a larger conspiracy involving the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star and perhaps even government corruption.

The film's style had the same feel as "Chinatown," although the banter and tone is a lot lighter.

This is the quintessential Black film, with his trademark fingerprints all over the film - including his rapid fire dialogue, even as bullets fly and the body count rises.

Crowe and Gosling have really good chemistry, with both showing a comedic side that they haven't got to show in too many of their previous projects. Newcomer Angourie Rice nearly steals the film from the two leads, as March's 13-year-old daughter. It's a role that could have easily worn out its welcome, but Rice makes the character smart and endearing and quite charming.

The mystery part of the script (which Black co-wrote with Anthony Bagarozzi) isn't too hard to see coming way before the two leads figure it out, but this is less about substance and more about style. It revels in its setting, both time and place, giving off a cool and easy vibe that fits the material perfectly.

"The Nice Guys" knows what it is, and doesn't try to go outside its comfort zone, resulting in a pleasant bit of popcorn light noir.

Also opening this week

Another comedy that doesn't quite hit the mark like "The Nice Guys" is "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" (C) - the follow-up to the 2014 hit that feels like more like reheated leftovers than a film that expands on the success of the original.

"Neighbors 2" finds Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) about to sell their home and move to the suburbs with their family, which is about to grow with Kelly expecting a second daughter.

Just when it looks like they are about to sell the house, the sale hits a snag when three girls (including Chloe Grace Moretz) move in next door with the intent of forming their own sorority.

At first they get an assist from former frat leader Teddy (Zac Efron), still trying to find his way after college. But when the girls turn on Teddy, he forms an alliance with Mac and Kelly to try and help the couple stop the sorority before it becomes too big of a problem.

I was a fan of the original film, a movie that I find myself stopping and watching any time it is on cable, so I had mild expectations going into this sequel.

Unfortunately, those expectations are tempered pretty quick. This film is much more uneven in the laughs department.

Efron's doofus Teddy still generates some laughs with scenes that focus on Teddy's dismay over his other fraternity brothers moving on from their party days to become responsible adults some of the best moments in this sequel.

The big problem is the girls just aren't as interesting as the guys, despite an attempt to use comedy to poke fun at sexism and female perceptions on a college campus.

With so much focus on the sorority, it takes away from one of the original films biggest strengths - the comedic chops of Byrne. She showed she could be just as filthy and foul-mouthed as the boys in the first film, but is pretty much an afterthought here.

Like Teddy, "Neighbors 2" tries hard to live off its past success, but ultimately fails.

"Neighbors 2" is rated R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— To read Micheal Compton’s review of "The Meddler", visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com


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