MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Late Night’ plows familiar ground with Kaling, Thompson

Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson in Late Night / Amazon Studios

If, like me, you were hoping “Late Night” would be a comedy smash that would brighten up what has been a pretty dull summer at the movies, you might be a little disappointed with the film.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie doles out its share of laughs, but the overall familiarity and predictability of where the film goes is a letdown.

The entire premise of the film rests on the notion that the lack of diversity in Hollywood from the talent to the directors to the writers to the crew limits the quality of the work or only offers skewed view of the world, and thus providing viewers/consumers less that what they deserve.

Obviously, that’s a valid point.

However, director Nisha Ganatra and writer/star Mindy Kaling attempt to make that point by creating a movie that is funny, but not as well crafted or as hilariously on point as films like 1987’s “Broadcast News” or 2010’s “Morning Glory,” which essentially champion the same exact point.

The film stars Kaling as Molly Patel, a chemical plant efficiency expert and longtime fan of Letterman-esque “Late Night” host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson). Newbury is a groundbreaking performer as the only female late-night host to carry a long-running program; however, she’s been coasting.

Newbury’s act has become stale and with her ratings in free-fal, she is ripe to be supplanted by an edgy new male comedian. Accused of being “a woman who hates women,” Newbury demands her producer hire a woman be hired to her previously all-white, all-male staff.

To protect his fiefdom, the producer hires Patel as a token, but Molly is determined to have an impact on the staff, and when her ideas gain traction, she takes advantage to craft a P.R. narrative of Newbury being her mentor.

Thompson thrives as the arrogant, self-serving Newbury, and the whip-smart Kaling is effective and appealing in her underdog role. However, the plot is just too similar to other films which have tread this ground in a firmer fashion. That fact disappointingly undermines the very point of the film. There is nothing new or innovative about the comedy or storytelling in the film.

I enjoyed “Late Night” to a degree, but was left wanting more or at least an original payoff. There are superior comedies all over cable and streaming services that I can watch from the comfort of my home. “Late Night” is a decent movie, but it’s nothing special. TV shows like “30 Rock” or for that matter “Mary Tyler Moore” from the 1970s are much better, and essentially tackle the same subject matter.

(R) 1 hr. 43 min.
Grade: C

Classic Corner – Field of Dreams

Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Amy Madigan in Field of Dreams / Universal Pictures

“If you build it, he will come.” It’s one of the most famous lines in film history thanks to the heart-tugging magic that director Phil Aden Robinson and stars Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones conjured in their 1989 baseball-themed fantasy “Field of Dreams”

In celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary, the Malco Razorback Cinema presents two big-screen showings of the movie that sent so many dads of all ages out to have a catch with their sons.

The first showing is Sunday at 1 p.m. with second at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The film is nearly a perfect choice for Father’s Day as the movie is centered on the longings of a son to reconcile with his dad who has past away.

Costner stars as novice corn farmer Ray Kinsella, who becomes convinced that he needs to plow down a portion of his crops and build a baseball diamond after hearing someone whisper “If you build it, he will come” while walking through his corn field one day.

Like a latter-day Jonah, Kinsella builds the ball field as he seeks the answer to exactly who “he” is, but he questioned for his seemingly off-center actions by everyone including his brother.

Once the field is completed, deceased ballplayers involved in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 begin to appear out of the corn field and play games on the field, including Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), who was Ray’s deceased father’s favorite player. But at first, only Ray can see them.

Ray’s attempts to find out who the mysterious “he” that will come is, and that search leads him on a path of discovery in which he encounters author Terrance Mann (Jones) and former ballplayer Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster) along the way. Each as a pivotal role to play in the story.

The mystery of the “he” and the field slowly unravels as Ray and his new friends as he and they comes to terms with the heartache that drives them throughout the film. The movie is a tear-jerker that is sentimental in all the right ways.

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert likened the movie to the type of pictures director Frank Capra (“Mr. Smith Goest to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”) became famous for in the 1930s and ‘40s and that Jimmy Stewart starred in. To me, there’s no higher praise.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Late Night(R) 1 hr. 43 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, AMC Pinnacle Hills

  • Men in Black International(PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Rogers Towne, Bentonville Skylight

  • Shaft(R) 1 hr. 51 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale