You never know where a hilarious trailer is going to come from. On paper, Pain & Gain sounds like an exploding disaster: Mark Wahlberg, the Rock, and Anthony Mackie play dimwitted bodybuilders who decide to become criminals… and accidentally get rich. Ken Jeong shows up to play yet another bug-eyed screaming guy, and it’s all directed by Michael Bay, who is great at filming explosions but has never shown much skill with characters, which are essential to a comedy.
But then comes Pain & Gain’s redband trailer, which awesome. Like, remarkably awesome. There’s a lot of bad language, so if you’re at the office, wear headphones while you watch this:
I mean… right? First of all, NewNowNext Award nominee Rebel Wilson is playing another sex-crazed phreak, and I LOVE IT. Her timing in that joke about the chocolate-covered Raisinets is perfect, and I choose to believe that she improvised the thing with her lips. You can’t teach that kind of foolishness.
Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg looks like he’s tapping into that “I will kill you with my mind” insanity that made him so funny in The Departed. It takes a very special comedian to sell that scene on the basketball court, where he’s threatening all those kids. If he plays it too scary, then it’s just uncomfortable, but if he plays it too goofy, then he’s just a clown. Somehow, Marky Mark finds a balance between the two, so we don’t actually think he’s going to hurt a preteen, but it seems like he could. We get to laugh and be a little nervous, which makes the moment tingly.
And look: I’m not necessarily in love with the jokes about a dog that eats a human toe. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of gross-out humor like that, not to mention “intentionally offensive” stuff about women. But at the same time, those guys standing around in superhero costumes and trying to be badass is pretty great.
Even more importantly, it seems like the jokes are arising from the personalities of the characters and not just pure randomness. Do you know what I mean? When a character is put in a situation where the circumstances bring out something inherently ridiculous in her personality, we can laugh because the moment feels honest. When a scene just drops a random joke about, I don’t know, rapping grannies into the mix, it can still be amusing, but that kind of non-sequitur can also get old quick.
So color me very surprised, y’all. I’m actually interested in this movie. Will it sustain what’s happening in the trailer? I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.