Using mental illness to get laughs might seem a poor substitute for genuine, character-based humour.
And when Hollywood actors put on their no-make-up, serious faces to play people in psychiatric institutions you can’t help being a bit cynical.
They might as well tattoo ‘Nominate me for an Oscar, pretty please’ on their foreheads. But awards glory was well deserved for Jennifer Lawrence, who nailed it as a girl with brains as well as issues and picked up the Best Actress gong for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (15: Entertainment In Video).
In this strange romantic comedy, Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a teacher released from hospital after an enforced eight-month stay for battering his unfaithful wife’s lover.
He returns to the suburban home of his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) determined to believe that his marriage can be saved. Then a developing friendship with a pal’s similarly damaged sister-in-law, Tiffany (Lawrence), inspires a plan that he thinks will make that happen.
Pat and Tiffany’s love/hate relationship is a treat and the acting is sparky and intelligent, with Cooper showing there’s more to him than flashy good looks.
> Fans of 1970s kung fu action adventures will get a kick out of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (18: Universal), even though it’s a one-note pastiche featuring impressive wire-work, bloody mayhem and CGI mutilation.
Hip-hop superstar RZA, who directs, stars and co-writes with gore guru Eli Roth, hits the target as a village blacksmith in 19th Century China whose forearms are replaced with death-dealing iron contraptions after they are severed by an evil clan.
With the help of a mercenary (Russell Crowe), a warrior (Rick Yune) and a brothel madam (Lucy Liu), he sets out for revenge, with particular focus on the monstrous Brass Body, who killed the blacksmith’s prostitute girlfriend.
Over-the-top action, authentically wobbly credits and a predictable finale enlivened with operatic melodrama and split-screen techniques.
> Miley Cyrus stars in mildly diverting action comedy SO UNDERCOVER (12: Warner), but there’s little sign this perky young lady is going to find it easy graduating from teen star to grown-up actress.
In a movie aimed squarely at her teenage female fanbase, she plays Molly, a sassy private investigator who’s assigned by an FBI agent to infiltrate a sorority house and protect the daughter of a vital witness in a big Mafia case.
First she has to endure a makeover from streetwise private eye to sophisticated college student. Think Miss Congeniality and you’ll get the general idea. Cyrus works hard and there are decent support performances, but the result is all rather tame.
> Australian film MENTAL (15: Universal) has more laugh-out-loud moments than most comedies. A politician’s wife is committed to an institution for wanting to be Maria Von Trapp and singing songs from The Sound Of Music.
Her philandering husband claims she’s on holiday, but he’s unable to cope with their five neurotic daughters and hires an eccentric hitch-hiker (Toni Collette), with more than a whiff of Mary Poppins about her, as a live-in nanny.