New comedy has funny moments but falls short

New comedy has funny moments but falls short

Inspired by a true story, the film features a dynamic plot and great on-screen chemistry between actors Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.

From the previews, one might think that “War Dogs” is simply a comedy about two clumsy arms dealers who land a deal with the Pentagon for 300 million dollars.

But it is much more than that.

Based on the true story of David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diviolli  (Jonah Hill), “War Dogs” is a funny, serious, dramatic and entertaining montage directed by Todd Phillips (“The Hangover.”)

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The backstory of the two main characters begins in middle school when they were arrested together.  Shortly thereafter, Efrim moves away and the two grow up separately.  Years pass, and David becomes a massage therapist and a bedsheet salesmen servicing nursing homes in Florida.

David and Efraim reunite while attending the funeral of a mutual acquaintance.  As the two talk, Efraim tells David about conducting business with the government filling orders for small arms to aid soldiers fighting the war in Iraq.  David soon decides that he wants to join Efraim in business rather than remain a masseur for the rest of his life.

However, the business of arms dealing isn’t as simple as Efraim makes it out to be.  There are a lot of regulations that the two must either succumb to or skirt around.

The characters in the film are just as dynamic as the plot, and I enjoyed Hill and Teller’s acting in the portrayals of David and Efraim.

Jonah Hill’s performance was near excellent. This role was one of his most dynamic and he nailed it.  From his use of comedic, high-pitched, disjointed laughter  to his performance in the most serious scenes in the film, Hill gave his all and it definitely showed. 

Miles Teller is no stranger to both drama (“Whiplash”) and comedy (“Project X.”)  His performance as David complemented Hill’s performance as Efraim directly and vice versa. 

However, I fear that Miles Teller is in danger of becoming  typecast.  In nearly every film, he presents as a placeholder.  In “War Dogs,” Teller’s character furthered the plot, but Teller’s individual performance added little to the film. 

In contrast, the Hill and Teller combination resulted in excellent on-screen chemistry.  I would happily look forward to a future film featuring this acting combination that would better allow Teller to step out of his usual comfort zone as he did in “Whiplash.”

As a whole, the film was reminiscent of two other excellent films, “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Joy.” 

In comparison to “Wolf of Wall Street,” “War Dogs” is slower paced — not always a bad thing — and less entertaining.  In comparison to “Joy,” the plot is nearly the same: a rags to riches ascension, featuring adversity that is overcome, and then a betrayal. 

This trope is common and “War Dogs” does not particularly rise above the crowd.  For that reason, I believe “War Dogs” earns seven stars out of 10.

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