Combustible Celluloid Review - The Machine (2023), Kevin Biegel, Scotty Landes, Peter Atencio, Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, Jimmy Tatro, Iva Babic, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jessica Gabor, Robert Maaser, Martyn Ford
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With: Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, Jimmy Tatro, Iva Babic, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jessica Gabor, Robert Maaser, Martyn Ford
Written by: Kevin Biegel, Scotty Landes
Directed by: Peter Atencio
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug use and some sexual references
Running Time: 112
Date: 05/26/2023

The Machine (2023)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mixed Drinks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This clumsy, chunky comedy based loosely on the material of comic Bert Kreischer is meant to be a cut-loose fun time, but it's so lifeless (and long) that it feels more like a painful hangover.

Bert (Bert Kreischer) has made a successful career as a comedian and podcaster, based on a crazy story about when he was in his twenties, hanging out and drinking with Russian gangsters, adopting the hard-partying persona "The Machine."

Now it's decades later, and he's a family man, trying to be better, but largely failing. This is especially true with his teen daughter, Sasha (Jessica Gabor), whose Sweet Sixteen party he manages to foul up. Bert's own father Albert (Mark Hamill) shows up at the party, immediately resuming their dysfunctional relationship.

Unfortunately, Russian gangster Irina (Iva Babic) appears, demanding a pocketwatch that Bert stole from the train to Moscow years earlier. Bert has no memory of the watch, so Irina forces Bert and Albert to head back to Russia to re-trace Bert's twenty-something steps. What awaits them there is yet another crazy adventure.

Directed by Peter Atencio — who, weirdly, was also behind the hilarious Key & Peele comedy KeanuThe Machine, first of all, is noisy. Kreischer's comedy has so much to do with yelling, which may work in a concert hall, but not so well on the screen. And because of this piercing pitch, most jokes simply fail to land.

Then, like many big screen comedies, the movie can't resist the temptation to go huge, with lots of shootouts and fights, and scenes of calculated craziness. Yet none of it actually means anything, given that the quiet moments are also forced. We don't care a bit for these cardboard cutout characters.

But, weirdly, the thing that leaves the worst aftertaste is the movie's cheerful embracing of drug and alcohol misuse. Characters use drugs and alcohol like Popeye used spinach, as a superpower-enhancer, with no repercussions. The Machine is like the guy at the party who thinks he's winning over the crowd, but is really just embarrassing himself.

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