Report Card - Todd Phillips
On 'Report Card' I choose a director, usually one who has released a movie recently and grade their filmography on an "A+" to "F" scale. All of the film scores will be averaged for one final score for the director's work as a whole. It should be stated that this is my opinion and It's just for fun. If you agree or disagree, please comment below and I would love to have a conversation.
Since War Dogs just came out and Todd Phillips has a significant body of work, I'll be grading his directorial efforts today.
1. Road Trip
Road Trip was Todd Phillips first foray into mainstream comedy film-making. It was a pretty big hit considering the small budget. I've seen this film maybe twice; once a very long time ago and again last year at some point. It's a reasonably fun road trip (obvious) film with some wildly eccentric characters. There's a good amount of raunchy humor which Todd Phillips would go on to thrive with. I wouldn't say it's a great comedy, but it's an entertaining Netflix watch when there's nothing else to do.
2. Old School
Todd Phillips really broke out as a comedic director with Old School. To this day it's still quoted and it helped catapult Will Ferrell into the spotlight. This, like Road Trip, is an entertaining film from start to finish without much substance. That being said, the characters in this are more enjoyable to watch and their dialogue is written better. The story is also more engaging and allows for more insane antics. Who doesn't remember the scene where Will Ferrell is jogging whilst drunk and naked and his fiance drives up next to him with all of her girlfriends. Comic gold.
3. Starsky and Hutch
Now I must confess that I haven't seen this film in a looong time so my score might not be completely accurate. I remember enjoying this film's retro-ness a lot and I really liked the pairing of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson; they play off of each other pretty well. I thought the film was funny, but never gut-busting. The movie gets points for being a period comedy, which is a bold move. That being said, it's also Todd Phillip's first PG-13 movie, so his trade-mark raunchy humor was unfortunately put in check.
4. School For Soundrels
I actually enjoyed this film more than most when it came out. I understand that it's not that great, but I found joy in watching Jon Heder be tormented by Billybob Thornton for most of the duration. The film falters when it gets sappy towards the end. There's plenty of cliches to be sure and Todd Phillips doesn't function quite as well when he's restrained by a PG-13 rating. Regardless of this, I still had a bit of fun with this film.
5. The Hangover
This was Todd Phillip's big break, and he deserved it. The Hangover is honestly one of my favorite comedies. Just about every situation in the film is set up for maximum comedic output. It doesn't hurt that Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis play off of each other perfectly. To this day, Galifianakis' Alan remains one of the weirdest and funniest characters to grace a comedy and his man-purse, sorry, I mean satchel will go down in history as one of the 2000's defining comedic moments.
6. Due Date
I may have this film on one of my "Over-or-under" articles in the future. I think Due Date is pretty underrated. Most critics weren't happy with how mean-spirited the film was and were annoyed by Galifianakis's character. This film has plenty of hilarious moments and though it might not be as good as its spirit brother, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, it's no slouch either. Robert Downey Jr. also does a great job at playing the straight man who starts off as kind of a dick. This and The Hangover are also when Todd Phillips started to flourish as as a cinematographer.
7. The Hangover: Part II
The Hangover: Part II was likely a financial decision pressed upon Todd Phillips by Warner Bros. As a result of this, the film was a disappointment as it completely rehashed the plot of the first film, only this time less funny. Sure, there are still moments of inspiration, but it has some pretty depraved and dirty humor where I was confused about whether I should be laughing or cringing. The film is shot well but it's very predictable and not nearly as funny as the original.
8. The Hangover: Part III
Todd Phillips ditched the similar story from the previous two for something different. There's not even a "hangover" in this film until the end. I found myself mostly bored with this film as I really didn't latch onto the plot or the characters. There's still some funny moments and the break from the mold of the previous films benefits it a little, but this is no better than the second one.
9. War Dogs
I just reviewed this film so you can check out my review here if you like. War Dogs is a significant step up from the last two Hangover films. That being said, it's also a pretty unoriginal film that lacks that little bit of edge that Todd Phillips is known for. Jonah Hill carries the movie and Phillips at least makes it pretty to look at. There are signs in this movie that Todd Phillips might be ready to move away from comedy because this film has a definite identity crisis. War Dogs doesn't really know whether it's a drama or a comedy. Chock this one up to growing pains.
Todd Phillips is a capable director who has made me laugh many times in the past. He's shown signs of tiring of the genre and seems to have ambitions of moving on to something else, much like Adam McKay made the transition with The Big Short. Sure, Todd Phillips is taking a less graceful path, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on what he decides to tackle next.