I had little faith in this movie going in. Cocaine Bear was such a disappointment that I was gunshy about trying another farcical comedy. The only reason I went was because I really like to see a movie in the theater every weekend and there were slim pickings this weekend. I certainly wasn’t going to throw my money at another insipid Fast & Furious episode.
Happily, The Machine is everything I hoped it would be. It's a tribute to the movie makers that they took such a brainless pretext and built a very strong comedy around it. The setup is in the previews: Bert's misadventures in Russia during college comes back to haunt him thirty years later. There's this crime boss who simply must have his precious watch that Bert and friends stole from him thirty years previously. All his miscreant kids want to find it to secure their position as his successor.
Stupid as that setup is, they make it work brilliantly. It's about the tone. They manage to keep it ridiculous without going over the top. They manage to kill a lot of people and have you laughing about it. They infuse all the side characters with quirky personalities that the performers managed to get on film. They cast it perfectly.
Speaking of casting, Mark Hamil does a stunningly good job playing Bert's father. As a guy who grew up watching his teenage mug torturing lines in Star Wars, I'd convinced myself that his best work was as the voice of Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar the Last Air Bender. I'm happy to report that I had him wrong. Somewhere in the last 40+ years, he became a very strong performer.
There is a bit of a nostalgia bias in this flick. Because Bert is middle-aged, they have callbacks to pop references from his younger days that might not land with anyone born this century. Other than that, this movie is very entertaining. It's also very re-watchable because so much of what works is in the performances rather than the plot.
Go watch it. I'll be surprised if you don't like it at least a little. Most of you will love it. It's an instant classic in the vein of The Hangover.