Review: War Dogs Is Disjointed And Not Funny
Title: War Dogs
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Stephen Chin (screenplay), Todd Phillips (screenplay), Jason Smilovic (screenplay), and Guy Lawson (based on the Rolling Stone article “Arms and the Dudes”)
Principal Cast: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, and Ana de Armas
Summary: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.
I have never been a fan of The Hangover movies. I never quite understood why everyone was so obsessed with them, so when I saw that director Todd Phillips had another movie coming out about war profiteers I wasn’t sure I was on board. I’m a fan of pitch dark humor but I could tell what kind of tone War Dogs was going for. There seemed to be an odd mix of dark humor and “dude-bro” humor that littered The Hangover movies. I’m also not a fan of Miles Teller so I went into this one with low expectations.
War Dogs is a movie that jumps around in tone and humor and none of it worked in the end, even if Jonah Hill’s performance is fantastic.
As I said I’m a fan of dark humor and one of my favorite movies of all time is The Royal Tenenbaums where you have to find humor in a man trying to commit suicide because he’s in love with his adoptive sister. There were moments where it felt like War Dogs was trying to get to that level but it was always one swear word joke away from getting there. I don’t care about language, I swear like a sailor, but there was something about the language in War Dogs that just made it feel juvenile. I expect lots of ‘fucks’ in something like Sausage Party but when you’re going to tackle dark humor you need to approach it like an adult. War Dogs seemed to be catering to the “dude-bro”, drunk freshmen college demographic.
It made any attempts at taking things in a darker direction fall completely flat and made the other jokes stand out all the more with how out of place they felt. It’s a juxtaposition that is hard to pull off and War Dogs stumbled more than it succeeded. It made for a comedy that I didn’t laugh that much at. The best gag in the movie comes at the expense of smuggling a bunch of guns across the border in a truck but it doesn’t entirely work when you see how stupid these two are. I understand that it’s part of the point but they make such baffling stupid calls that I could only shake my head.
If there is one good thing that comes out of this it is the performance by Jonah Hill. He’s got a magnetic screen presence and they don’t rely on his size for easy comedy. The roles calls for Hill to basically become multiple people on the fly and he does a great job at it. It’s just a shame that he’s acting against Teller who seems to suck up all the charisma in the room every time he’s on screen. Bradley Cooper shows up as another arms dealer and while he’s interesting he’s not in the movie enough to make a real impact
War Dogs is one of those movies that wants to take a ridiculous, real world scenario and amp it up for comedy. However, when I left, I was much more interested in the real story than the movie. It’s a story ripe for telling but not told like this.