What’s Up at the Movies: Review of ‘Vice’

Vice seeks to demonstrate how one of the most mysterious, yet powerful, Vice Presidents in history carried out ruthless politics, both domestic and international, operating in the shadows of the White House… and the Pentagon… and the House of Representatives… and the Senate.


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A movie renaissance man, Adam “Ghost Panther” McKay – best known for his Will Ferrell collaborations, as the founder of Funny or Die, and writer for Saturday Night Live – brings us the unrestrained, irreverent  satire of Dick Cheney in Vice.

While Cheney served in some of the most prominent roles within the federal government, U.S. Representative for Wyoming, White House Chief of Staff, 17th Secretary of Defense, and 46th Vice President, it was the cloak-and-dagger style that defined him, or at least the one we meet in Vice.

Vice seeks to demonstrate how one of the most mysterious, yet powerful, Vice Presidents in history carried out ruthless politics, both domestic and international, operating in the shadows of the White House… and the Pentagon… and the House of Representatives… and the Senate.

To this end, Christian Bale as Cheney is masterful: a lackluster, dry, yet subtly manipulative, leader seeking power at all costs. This is not to mention the radical, physical transformation of Bale who gained nearly 50 pounds for the role and presumably had a team of artists who “styled” his hair each day of the shoot. Similarly, Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, is equally as unrecognizable, offering a stunning performance as the backbone of the Cheney family and the catalyst for Cheney’s rise to power.

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Despite the striking performances of Bale and Adams, Vice, as a whole, is a bit all over the place. With a significant overlap in style with McKay’s The Big Short, blunt symbolism, a tenuous connection between Cheney and the narrator, humorous scene breaks, and breaking the fourth wall à la Netflix’s House of Cards, the movie tries to pack in too many theatrical devices in two hours.

Moreover, McKay’s portrayal of George W. Bush, played by Sam Rockwell, was merely an over-the-top, shallow caricature of our 43rd President, which only serves to distract from the movie and lessen the likelihood of viewers to perceive McKay’s depiction of Cheney as accurate.

Of note, performances by Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell are as masterful as Bale’s and Adams’, yet because Rumsfeld and Perry were less prominent figures in the overall depiction, Carrell and Perry garnered less screen time.

Overall, the movie is entertaining and worth the watch, but take it at face value. If you are in the mood for something less serious, McKay’s Holmes and Watson, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, is also in theaters.

WhatsUpRI Rating: 3.5 out of 5

WhatsUp Ratings Guide
5- Excellent – Don’t miss it
4- Very Good – Well worth your time
3- Good – Solid, but not earthshattering
2- Fair – Not quite ready for prime time
1- Poor – Don’t waste your time or money

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