THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


A few years ago, I saw a movie called Swingers. It starred Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau (who also scripted) as a couple of guys looking for love amidst the swing craze in Los Angeles. I loved that film and it quickly became one of my favorites. Now, Vaughn and Favreau have re-teamed for Made, which the latter wrote and directed. Although different in setting and feel, this movie again proves that these guys are a classic on-screen duo.

Favreau plays Bobby, a mediocre boxer with a 5-5-1 record. He spends his days doing construction and performing some odd jobs for an L.A. crime boss, Max (Peter Falk). One of those jobs entails driving around a stripper named Jessica (Famke Janssen) who is also Bobby's girlfriend. He's not wild about her job, but it puts a roof over the head of her young daughter. Bobby's best friend is Ricky (Vaughn). He, too, is a boxer and construction worker, but he is also a colossal screw-up. (Ricky inexplicably "lost" one of Max's delivery trucks.) When Bobby gets consumed with jealousy and pummels the bachelor at whose party Jessica is stripping, Max gives him a chance to right the wrong. He and Ricky will fly to New York and make a "delivery." What they are delivering and to whom they will be delivering it are a mystery. They are each given a plane ticket, a pager and a $1,500 per diem.

Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau take lunch with Sean "Puffy" Combs in Made
Immediately after they board the plane, Ricky - the hyperactive loudmouth - begins trying to act like a mobster. He flashes his cash around, roughs a guy up for not ceding a pay phone quickly enough, and harps about his need to get a gun. Bobby tries to keep a lid on his buddy's exuberance, but the two can hardly be in a room together for more than five minutes without a fight breaking out. Eventually, they are hooked up with a New York gangster named Ruiz (Sean Combs a.k.a. Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or whatever he is calling himself this week). Ruiz wants them to deliver a briefcase full of cash to a Scottish mobster nicknamed the "Red Dragon." All Bobby wants to do is make the drop and get home; Ricky is so intent on playing the part of the Mafioso that he continually threatens to get somebody killed.

In its own weird way, Made is like Abbott and Costello Join the Mafia. You have one level-headed guy trying to do a job and a loose cannon who repeatedly complicates things with his ineptitude. To be clear, Made is less shticky and more artistic than an Abbott and Costello picture, but you get the idea. The humor revolves around that clash of personalities.

Favreau paired himself similarly with Vaughn in Swingers; he played the nice guy looking have an honest relationship, while Vaughn was the guy who thought hipster theatrics were the shortest route into a woman's bed. That dynamic is a little darker this time around. Bobby understands the very serious implications in messing up a mob transaction. Ricky, on the other hand, is all ego. Given a speck of power, he uses it as license to be a big shot. He is oblivious to the bigger picture.

I laughed a lot at the give-and-take between the characters. Favreau is a good straight man, providing the levity against which wildman Vaughn bounces. When the duo meets Ruiz for the first time, Ricky starts spouting off cliches about getting "strapped," much to Bobby's dismay and embarrassment. This is funny stuff, a comedic examination of the differences between people who want to get ahead and those who just want to represent.

The two stars are perfect in their roles, and the supporting cast is also good. It's no surprise that veteran Peter Falk is hilarious, but I was floored by how good Sean Combs was. The man has screen presence. Vincent Pastore (from "The Sopranos") is on hand too, giving a solid performance as the boys' limo driver.

My sole complaint with Made is this: as funny as it is, the bickering between Bobby and Ricky at times goes on a bit too long and becomes redundant. Certain scenes (such as one that takes place on a deserted street corner) could have been shortened to avoid seeming too much like other scenes in which they scream and throw punches at each other. Still, I'd rather have too much of a good thing than not enough of it.

Even if the picture repeats itself somewhat, the characters and situations are compelling enough to keep us involved anyway. The ending is particularly riveting, packing a surprising emotional punch. I laughed at Made, but what happens in the last five minutes proves, as Swingers did, that Favreau is more than just a funny guy. He's a funny guy with a big heart.

( out of four)

Made is rated R for pervasive language, some drug use and sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.
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