“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” : The Perplexing Thin Line of Comedy and Drama

By Scott Kurland

Film: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, and Nicholas Braun
Rated R
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

As 2016 moves on, I’m starting to discover a new pet peeve: poor film marketing. We’re only three months into 2016 and we’ve had so many good films that have tanked due to bad PR. “Hail, Caesar” and “Eddie The Eagle” were both victims of this phenomenon, and now, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the newest addition to this club. However, unlike the other two aforementioned films, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was marketed as comedy when, in fact, it was a true war drama. Let’s find out if “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was any good shall we?

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” stars Tina Fey as Kim Baker, a television journalist at a high profile news station. Stuck in a rut, Kim spends her days hiding in her cubicle and avoiding her real life. When she at last takes on an actual news assignment in the field, Kim finds herself heading to Afghanistan. Once in the field, Kim starts to find out that her real career lies in front of the camera. Kim begins a new life in Afghanistan, working with her fellow journalists (Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, and Nicholas Braun) and finding out just how cut-throat she really is.

Every trailer makes this film look like a hysterical comedy like “Volunteers.” I've got some news for you, it's not. This is more of a hard-hitting news drama like “Zero Dark Thirty”. The themes it explores are more about self discovery and less about whacky Tina Fey in the middle of a war. I did not like this dark tone at all, and it’s not because of misleading trailers. It’s not even because there’s a preachy message about being too career driven.The real reason I did not like this film is because it was poorly written and filled with unlikable characters. Rob Carlock wrote the script and he’s worked with Tina Fey on “30 Rock” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.  I find that shocking as they are both extremely well written shows. Carlock’s script is filled with garbage people. I know that sounds rash, but it’s true. The three leads have no redeeming qualities and, as you watch them self-destruct, you grow to loath them by time the movie is over.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa the men responsible for “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Focus,” which was one of the worst films of 2015. Ficarra and Requa try their best with this film, and I see what they were going for, but they failed. The pacing of this film is way too slow and it's ability to keep the audience’s attention diminishes with each passing moment. Ficarra and Requa have proven to be competent and able directors in the past, they’re just having a hard time finding the right film to make.

As for the cast, Fey, Freeman, and Robbie look to be in psychical pain delivering their dialog. I don’t know when they realized that the film was heading south, but it’s very obvious from their faces that they are just trying to make it to the end of production. Fey does a decent job as Baker. This isn’t the typical Fey we’ve see before. It’s also a version of Fey that left me indifferent. I love Tina Fey. I love everything she’s been in, including “The Invention of Lying” and “Baby Mama”. I did not like Fey in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” I did not like any performance in this film for that matter, which surprises me because I usually can.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is just a bad film that, sadly, took down a great writer, directors, and stars. This is a film that can be skipped completely. I believe, as time goes on, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” will be forgotten altogether just like “Our Brand is Crisis” and “Fast Food Nation”. Do yourself a favor and skip this film, I guarantee no good can come of watching it.

scott kurlandComment