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Kevin James Takes A Villainous Turn In The Mean-Spirited “Becky”

Comedians going dark can sometimes lead to a real cinematic discovery. They don’t even need to necessarily go dark, but to show another side of themselves is often a joy to witness. Look no further than Adam Sandler’s revelatory turn last year in Uncut Gems, continuing what he’s been able to show in work like Punch Drunk Love. Now, Sandler’s pal Kevin James takes a crack at it in the thriller Becky, a gory gender swapped take on material covered far lighter in Home Alone. James is certainly chillingly evil here, but the mean streak, especially in relation to dogs, found here ends up soiling the picture.

The movie is a thriller, beginning with some father/daughter drama. Becky (Lulu Wilson) is headed to her family’s lake house with her father Jeff (Joel McHale) and their two dogs, sometime after her mother/his wife has passed away. They have a tense relationship, rooted in Becky’s fear that Jeff is about to sell the house. Well, he’s opted not to, but he’s also invited his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe) for the weekend. Moreover, Jeff and Kayla reveal to Becky that they’re planning to get married. She storms off with one of the dogs, becoming separated when all hell breaks loose. You see, Dominick (James), a neo-nazi, has broken out of prison and needs something from the house. Along with Apex (Robert Maillet) and his gang, he holds the family hostage, leaving Becky to potentially save the day. Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion direct a screenplay by Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye. Greta Zozula handles the cinematography, while the score is from Nima Fakhrara. Supporting players include Ryan McDonald, James McDougall, and more.

Kevin James undoubtedly showcases an ability to go to some dark places with this villainous role. Unfortunately, the flick is paper thin and mean-spirited, torpedoing whatever he can bring to the table. Along with James, young Lulu Wilson does overcome some of the script pitfalls. Wilson is a decent anchor, protagonist wise. Neither is given enough to do. One is a bile spewing villain, made interesting by the actor playing him, while the other is a sullen teenage girl, driven to heroism in a desperate situation. They play the parts well, but the parts don’t really have a ton of layers to them.

Becky is the sort of film that easily could have been saved, if not for the decision to needlessly harm the canines. The work was already slight, so when you’re on the fence about something, a trigger like this can push it in the wrong direction. As a dog lover, I’m predisposed to not be thrilled when an animal dies on screen, but there are times where it serves the narrative. Here, it’s just for shock value and is a complete turn off. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, as well as writers Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye, are better than that. The small bursts of creativity elsewhere in the flick show that.

Starting tomorrow, anyone curious to see what Kevin James can do removed from the comedy genre can give Becky a look (it’s actually opening up in some theaters too, if you can believe it). James is alright, Lulu Wilson is solid, and the gore quotient is up there. The cast is hardly the problem, nor are the practical effects. Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much “there” there, besides them, rendering it all somewhat moot. I’d be curious to see James do this again in a different sort of movie, as well as see the creative team get another crack at a more developed idea. This one is, unfortunately, just a bit half baked…

Becky is in theaters, drive-ins, and on demand/digital tomorrow.

(Photos courtesy of Quiver Distribution)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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