'Vice' stars an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale

The film’s tone is somewhere between a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch and a Christopher Guest mockumentary, with perhaps a little 'Macbeth' thrown in for garnish. This makes it sound like more fun than it is, though.

Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures/AP
Christian Bale (l.) and Sam Rockwell star in 'Vice.'

While watching “Vice,” Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic starring an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale sporting what looks like 40 extra pounds, I kept consoling myself that at least it wasn’t directed by Oliver Stone. It’s not ham-fisted and laced with conspiracy mongering. But McKay, whose last film was the irreverent and overrated Wall Street romp “The Big Short,” isn’t a huge improvement. The film’s tone is somewhere between a “Saturday Night Live” sketch and a Christopher Guest mockumentary, with perhaps a little “Macbeth” thrown in for garnish. This makes it sound like more fun than it is, though. (Along for the ride, in various modes of mimicry, are Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.) 

It’s a fair question as to whether a character as nefarious, in the filmmakers’ eyes, as Cheney should be given the jokey treatment. In theory, there’s no reason why this approach shouldn’t work – if the jokes were better and the black comedy was blacker. But McKay isn’t really interested in Cheney as anything but a target. When, at the end, we hear Cheney intone “I was the bad guy so you didn’t have to be,” the self-serving gravity of that pronouncement rings hollow because the movie is hollow, too. Grade: C+ (Rated R for language and some violent images.)

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