2 ½ (out of 4)
Adam McKay is fresh off The Big Short, which happily sat amongst the most enjoyable of 2015's Oscar pool. His new film is equal in vigor, emotion and righteous aim, but Vice is half the film in potency. If not for McKay’s innate capacity to render the boring absorbing, as well as Christian Bale’s unassumingly perfect turn as Dick Cheney (a performance in debt to some of the best make-up work in years), Vice would feel a pointless affair, nothing more than a passing biopic. But McKay is more than aware of his audience, subject matter and the slippery slope when it comes to true stories.
Vice is, if nothing else, overwhelmingly entertaining. McKay’s script is packed with insight and cleverly recreated interplay between mythic modern political figures. Still, his yearning to relate complex social issues through a mainstream comedy lens just doesn’t coalesce as sharply as when he related the financial confusion of the 2008 housing market crash in The Big Short. In characterization – as this is more conventional Oscar bait – things are played very dramatically and Bale carries McKay’s interpretation of Cheney wherever need be.
But the cutaways, cute gags and grandstanding feel like a distraction, fueled nobly by outrage but executed with the narrow objectivity of a Michael Moore movie. Some of the gimmicks in McKay’s arsenal really work – Bale and Amy Adams exchanging Shakespearean dialogue before bedtime is a surreal moment – but his desire to make people laugh at true life absurdity seems entirely at odds with his passion to inform the masses on pressing, relevant truths.
To keep it brief...
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