Vice Movie Review
Back in 2015, Adam McKay, best known at the time for making a bunch of Will Ferrell movies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers, tricked critics and audiences alike into believing that he was an Oscar-contending director, despite The Big Short being a confused and sloppy satire of the financial crisis. He’s back with another satire, this time of the political rise of Dick Cheney.
Vice is more coherent than The Big Short in practically every way, but it also lacks scenes of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining to the audience what the hell is happening.
As much as Robbie is missed, Vice is an all-around better movie, even if it still hampered by the fact that McKay, who also wrote the movie, just isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. The movie, which features an immersive performance by Christian Bale and some entertaining caricature takes by Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld (huh?) and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush (I can buy that), has plenty of interesting content and of course is based on one of the most fascinating and divisive subjects in modern politics.
It just isn’t that good of a movie.
Bale, under added weight and some extensive makeup, is nearly unrecognizable as Cheney. He, like the rest of the cast, appears to have fun throughout, straddling a line between seriousness and satire, character study and caricature. It would have been amazing to see him play Cheney in a movie that took things just a little more seriously, or at least didn’t feel like it was throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.
Frankly, Dick Cheney’s rise to power is an interesting one, and his story deserves to be seen on the big screen. But Vice would have worked better as a gritty drama—or at least treated as a drama with humorous aspects—than the slightly goofy end product McKay served up here. The satire isn’t as biting as it needed to be, and when the movie becomes more serious—most notably after 9/11 happens—it becomes clear that McKay is out of his depth.
Vice has its entertaining stretches and is by no means a terrible film, but it’s a movie that falls well short of its potential in practically every way. Adam McKay should consider going back to making Will Ferrell comedies.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.