Scott Tobias

When reflecting on the thwarted ambitions of Gary Hart, a Democratic candidate for President in 1984 and 1988, two moments immediately spring to mind. The first is a primary debate in 1984, when the eventual nominee, Walter Mondale, waved off a string of generalities Hart was making about small business and encouraging entrepreneurship: "When I hear your new ideas," Mondale said, "I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef'?," referring to the then-ubiquitous Wendy's commercial campaign.

If Joseph Kahn's Bodied were a stand-up comedian, it would probably describe itself as "politically incorrect" or "an equal-opportunity offender," and you might be inclined to go bottoms-up on the two-drink minimum and beeline for the exit. Kahn and screenwriter Alex Larsen, better known in the hip-hop community as Kid Twist, have designed the film as a comprehensive provocation, blowing up racial and gender stereotypes through a fusillade of tasteless one-liners. It's juvenile. It's irritating.

Since Donald Trump was elected president, there's been a pandemic of newspaper pieces in which a reporter sits down at a Midwest diner, polls a gaggle of older white voters about the latest Trump provocation, and comes away with the not-so-shocking conclusion that they're still in firm support. What's missing from these drive-by features is any deeper sense of how its subjects actually live or how they interact with their communities, so they're defined entirely by their red-state intransigence.

In the political world, the term "astroturfing" refers to a protest movement that's made to appear like an organic expression of grassroots anger, but reveals itself to be bankrolled by deep-pocketed organizations. (It's derived from AstroTurf, the synthetic carpeting that stands in for natural grass in some sporting venues.) Though the term has been abused by partisans and conspiracists inclined to slag political adversaries as paid protestors, it's still an evocative shorthand for faux-authenticity, the "fuzzy concrete" that stands in for the brilliant green emerging from the soil.

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins has only made three features in 20 years, but each one feels like the work of someone who has continued to chip away at her screenplay the entire time — adding details, refining characters, getting everything just so. All three are about families on the edge: Her 1998 debut, Slums of Beverly Hills, follows a teenager (Natasha Lyonne) whose nomadic single father moves her and her brothers from one run-down apartment to another within the same elite school district.

There's a powerful juvenile allure to the raunchy puppets in The Happytime Murders, just as there was in cruder predecessors like Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles or Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police. After all, children who grew up on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and their own collections of plush lovies cross a short bridge to adolescence, when they learn all the swear words and obscure sexual maneuvers in the lexicon.

The following baseball terms apply to The Catcher Was a Spy, a modestly appointed biopic about Moe Berg, a major-league-catcher-turned-OSS-agent during World War II: "Down the middle," "a can of corn," "passed ball," "below the Mendoza line," "designated for assignment."

In other words, it's a consistent underachiever, as washed-out and terminally mediocre as Berg himself was at the end of his long stint in the majors. Or, to quote a favorite schoolyard taunt: We want a catcher, not a belly scratcher. And there's an abundance of belly scratching going on in this film.

With Judd Apatow's 2005 phenomenon The 40-Year-Old Virgin becoming a teenager later this summer, it's entirely fitting that its theme of arrested adolescence continues to dominate studio comedies, despite the third-act assurance in every one of them that, yes, it's perhaps time to grow up and put away childish things. And yet here comes Tag, a hit-or-miss goof about middle-aged men still engaged in a playground battle royale, clinging to their lost youth like a cached beer keg at the end of the night.

A few months ago, the YA adaptation Love, Simon became the first gay teen romantic comedy released by a major studio, a sign of broader tolerance — and a changing calculus — in terms of what stories are deemed suitable for mainstream consumption. (That rom-coms themselves are an endangered species made it even more of a rainbow unicorn.)

To date, the Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur has made one film about a fisherman who survived in freezing water after his boat capsized off the Ireland coast (The Deep), another about a blizzard that wiped eight climbers off the summit of Mount Everest in 1996 (Everest), and now one more about a hurricane that pummeled a yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, leaving its sailors wounded and badly off-course.

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