Don’t Think Twice

Don’t Think Twice

Posted on August 4, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and drug use
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Sad offscreen death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: August 5, 2016
Date Released to DVD: December 5, 2016 ASIN: B01IV40HUY

Life is pretty much improv, after all. We are constantly challenged to respond to what we cannot predict. But we do not have the two foundational rules that make performance improvisation so compelling. First is “yes, and.” Whatever anyone on stage says or does, everyone else has to build on it. If someone says, “Wow, it’s cold in here,” no one is allowed to say, “What do you mean? We’re outside and it’s warm.” You have to say something that takes what the first person said to the next level, maybe “Yes, who turned the air conditioning down to 60?” Or even, “Well, there’s really no practical way to heat an igloo.” It is the high-wire without a net act of improv group’s lightning quick, sharply observed, and deftly funny scenes that audiences enjoy.

Copyright 2016 Film Arcade
Copyright 2016 Film Arcade

The other fundamental rule is what improvers say to each other before they go on stage: “I’ve got your back.” Improv is about the group, not the individuals. “Don’t Think Twice” is the story of an improv group called The Commune, suggestive of its familial, interdependent, collegial quality. They are something like a family, if a dysfunctional one. While they have very different backgrounds and goals, the way they come together on stage is, at least for now, enough to make them feel they have a home together.

The closest thing they have to a leader is Miles (writer/director Mike Birbiglia of “Sleepwalk With Me”), who is a little older and taught many of them. He is still teaching improv classes and often has brief affairs with the young women who are his students. Samantha (Gillian Jacobs) and Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) are a couple. Allison (Kate Micucci) is a quiet woman who is working on a graphic novel. Jill (“Inside Amy Schumer” writer Tami Sagher) lives with her parents and is the only one who does not have money problems. And Bill (Chris Gethard) is making ends meet by handing out hummus and chips in the grocery store. “Your 20’s are all about hope. And then your 30’s are all about realizing how dumb it was to hope,” one character says.

The group is presented with some bad news and some good news, two crises that expose the fragility of their connection. They are about to lose their performing space, and there are no alternatives they can afford. And Jack and Samantha achieve the most coveted of opportunities, the chance to audition for a television program that is the equivalent of “Saturday Night Live,” a sketch comedy show that is a major cultural institution. Both put enormous pressure on the group, and the sense of desperation, jealousy, and competition shatters their pretense of unity and endless support for one another. At the same time, Bill’s father becomes critically ill, which gives them a way to continue to connect.

Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me” showed great promise. The transfer from stand-up to screen was awkward, but the atmosphere and the specifics of life on the road as a comedian were exceptionally well handled and he is on screen, as on stage, an engaging character. Here he once again takes us unto a very specific world that we can all relate to, especially when it comes to the way the characters use humor to reach a place of honesty. Birbiglia takes a risk here, making Miles less likeable, but it works as he very effectively creates real and vivid characters who have to figure out who they are when they are offstage. While the first film gave us one perspective, this one expands with a clear-eyed but generous take on each of them. So, the individual stories work and they provide balance and counterpoint. Even family members have to grow up, accept responsibility, and decide when to change course.

Parents should know that this film has very strong language, sexual references and an explicit situation, rude humor, sad death of a parent, drinking and drugs.

Family discussion: Why is it important to say “yes, and?” Is it sometimes hard for you to be happy when your friends succeed?

If you like this, try: “Sleepwalk With Me” and Mike Birbiglia’s short film on YouTube, “Fresh Air 2: 2 Fresh 2 Furious”

Related Tags:


Comedy Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Independent

Off Camera: Keegan-Michael Key Interviewed by Sam Jones

Posted on June 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

One of my favorite performers is interviewed by one of the most thoughtful questioners in the business: “Off Camera’s” Sam Jones talks to “Key and Peele’s” Keegan-Michael Key about excellence, courage, destiny, and why comedy improv has to work backwards, not forwards. I predict that his performance in the upcoming Mike Birbiglia film “Don’t think Twice” will help him be recognized as one of today’s most talented and versatile actors. And once again, Sam Jones shows that he is one of today’s most skillful interviewers, focusing on work, purpose, problem-solving, and option-assessing.

Related Tags:


Actors Interview Shorts VOD and Streaming


Posted on April 28, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Profanity: Very strong language including n-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs, and drug dealing
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action violence, many guns, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 29, 2016
Date Released to DVD: August 1, 2016 ASIN: B01DYX9Y9M

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
I laughed so much and so hard at this movie that by the time it was over I had become of those Key and Peele show parking valets. I just wanted to stand in front of a hotel in my red vest saying over and over, “How about them Keys and Peeles, though! How ABOUT them Keys and Peeles!”

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, with a script co-written by Peele and directed by their series director Peter Atencio, have made one of the smartest and funniest comedies of the year, a film that works at every level from slapstick to sophisticated wit to social commentary and slam-bang action, with even a little romance.

Fans of the series will appreciate references like a trip to see a movie starring “Liam Neesons” but even those who have never heard of their Obama anger translator routine or their legendary East-West Bowl player names will immediately understand their characters and their situation.

Clarence (Key) is a happily married father who drives a minivan and listens to George Michael. His cousin Rell (Peele) is a pot-smoking slacker who is devastated following a break-up. But when he adopts an abandoned kitten his spirits lift, and he names it Keanu. When Keanu is stolen by the 17th Street Blips, a gang made up of gangsters who could not make it in the Bloods or the Crips, Clarence and Rel decide to rescue him. This leads to a strip club called HPV with a two-for-one lap dance special, run by drug dealer known as Cheddar (Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man). Clarence and Rell, trying to look tough, introduce themselves as Shark Tank and Tectonic. Clarence wonders how tough someone named Cheddar could be, but Rell points out that “You only name yourself something adorable if you can back it up.” When they explain to Cheddar that they are in the market for a “gangster pet,” Cheddar tells them they can have the kitten he has dubbed New Jack (complete with do-rag and gold chain) if they lead his gang on the delivery of an ultra-potent new drug. A series of encounters, escalating in peril, violence, and hilarity. It would be wrong to spoil more, so I will leave it at this: there is a very funny surprise guest star and Clarence’s professional team-building skills come in handy.

Key and Peele, both biracial, have always found comedy/commentary gold in their ability to reflect on race and culture. By casting themselves as highly and somewhat self-consciously assimilated black men who assume the media-created image of violent black drug dealers, they have added some sharp meta-commentary to a classic set up: fish-out-of-water, normal characters drawn into abnormal circumstances. Rell’s own weed dealer, played by SNL alum Will Forte, is a white man who is also taking on a stereotyped black persona, including cornrows. Clarence, who tries to order a white wine spritzer in the strip club and who tells Rell he sounds like John Ritter, swings into what he thinks is gangster mode when Chedder’s hostile n-word-spouting henchmen approach him. The transformation is wildly funny, both the specificity of it, and the way it fits so seamlessly into our own media-created notion of that archtype and the porous aspects of his new persona as the “real” Clarence keeps peeking out. Clarence and Rell are as innocent and helpless as the adorable kitty in the midst of druglord shoot-outs. Key and Peele are pretty adorable, too, in a gangster pet sort of way.

Parents should know that this film includes extended peril and violence, many guns, characters injured and killed, drugs and drug dealing, sexual references and nudity, strip club, and very strong and crude language including the n-word.

Family discussion: Where did Rel and Clarence get their ideas of how to behave with the Blips? How did Clarence’s team building training come in handy?

If you like this, try: the Key and Peele television series, “Date Night,” and “Analyze This”

Related Tags:


Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Race and Diversity
Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania 2

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Copyright Columbia 2015
Copyright Columbia 2015

Vampire Mavis (Selena Gomez) and human Jonathan (Andy Samberg) fell in love in the first “Hotel Translyvania,” and in this sequel they get married and have a baby named Dennis. He has his father’s unruly red curls. But his grandfather Drac (Adam Sandler) wants to make sure he has inherited his mother’s vampire genes as well. “He’s a late fanger,” Drac tries to reassure everyone, especially himself.

“Hotel Transylvania 2” suffers from sequel-itis — not as fresh or imaginative as the original and it feels like it was made because they wanted to do a sequel and not because they had anything special to say. But it is still entertaining.

Even before the movie starts, the Columbia logo statue turns into a vampire bat and we know we’re off to a place where cute monsters rule. The wedding scene is a lot of fun as it re-introduces us to the characters, all played by wonderful comic voice actors including David Spade (Griffin, the invisible man, who keeps insisting that he has an invisible girlfriend), Kevin James as Frankenstein and Fran Drescher as his wife, Eunice, Keegan-Michael Key as Murray the mummy, Steve Buscemi as Wayne the very fecund wolfman, and Molly Shannon as his wife, Wanda. We skip ahead quickly to the arrival of Dennis, and then ahead again as he approaches his 5th birthday, and Drac is still waiting to see if he will become a vampire. (Maybe when he grows up, he could marry similarly mixed-race Renesmee from “Twilight”).

This is even more pressing because if he is human, Mavis wants to move to California, near Jonathan’s parents, so he can be around other humans. Even though Dennis loves monsters, she thinks he will be happier around his own kind of people. So, she and Jonathan fly to California to see whether it is right for them, leaving Dennis with his grandfather.

Big mistake.

Drac promises to keep Dennis at the castle/hotel but instead takes him on a journey to try to get his vampire side to come out. And of course he brings his pals along. They visit a monster summer camp and try to scare some humans, but find that their scare power is significantly diminished. Humans ask for selfies and one of them even compliments Drac on his chocolate cereal. Dennis may be a late-fanger but these cuddly monsters are no-fangers, and when you’re looking for silly fun with a hug at the end, that’s just fine.

Parents should know that this film’s themes include monsters and scariness but it is mostly for humor. There is some comic peril and violence with no one hurt, some potty humor, themes of family/culture difference, conflicts. and prejudice.

Family discussion: What are the biggest cultural or ethnic differences in your family? Which is your favorite monster and why?

If you like this, try: the first “Hotel Transylvania” and “Megamind”

Related Tags:


3D Animation Family Issues Series/Sequel
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik