Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' is a fun, genially irreverent comedy

After Rock the Kasbah and Our Brand is Crisis, the demand for satire set in foreign countries that don't like us isn't what it used to be. Not that it was ever high in the first place.

That means a lot of moviegoers won't be inclined to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a genially irreverent comedy about cable news journalists set in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How genial? The movie stars Tina Fey, who's unlikely to push many buttons or envelopes.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot casts Fey as Kim Baker, whose single, childless status makes her perfect for assignment in a war zone. Baker is based on Kim Barker, a Chicago Tribune overseas reporter whose raucous memoir The Taliban Shuffle is tailored for Fey by her 30 Rock collaborator Robert Carlock. It's a good fit, a stretch yet not unfamiliar; Liz Lemon less insecure.

Kim leaves behind her boyfriend (Josh Charles) for Kabul, where hotels are jammed with media types, killing time and brain cells with donkey porn, strip clubs and raves. It's a debauched scene, blowing off steam while awaiting the next mortar to drop or IED to explode, to capture on video. In these male-centric surroundings, Kim is a 10, she's told by a 15, rival journalist Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie).

Kim's sexual tensions mount as months go by, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is much more than groin humor. There's a M*A*S*H-like insolence about these overgrown children at work and play, a boundary-nudging tenor that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote Bad Santa, are clearly comfortable with.

Carlock's screenplay leads Kim in several directions, into the field where a blunt general (Billy Bob Thornton, excellent) wants her to stay out of the way. Kim's evolving relationships with soldiers, security guards and her translator-fixer Fahim (Christopher Abbott) are rotated too often for narrative comfort. A subplot involving a warlord (Alfred Molina) attempting to seduce Kim takes the long way around to a payoff.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot loses momentum in its second half, when Kim settles into a relationship with a prickly Scottish photographer (Martin Freeman). It's a late-arriving theme to hinge a screenplay resolution upon, underlining the first half's frayed composition. Why doesn't much of what we saw then matter now?

Fey makes her best movie impression yet outside of pure comedy, striking a nice balance in Kim of personal uncertainty and professional intrepidness. Wisecracks are her manner of coping, an advantage of wit over nearly everyone else in the room.

Certainly this could've been a bolder, angrier movie than what it became. After so much grimness in movies about U.S. military actions in the Middle East, it's good finding one dedicated to the kind of humor getting a lot of folks through over there.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Top things to do this weekend: Rock memorabilia, Halloween at Disney, TICA Cat Show

Top things to do this weekend: Rock memorabilia, Halloween at Disney, TICA Cat Show

MUSEUM: Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll RevolutionAn unusual exhibit coming to the Florida Holocaust Museum, Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution is a display of the life of the flamboyant concert promoter synonymous with classic rock. Grah...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
This week’s best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

This week’s best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

HALLWORTHY? Journey and Def LeppardWith Bon Jovi and Dire Straits off the board, Def Leppard, left, is now the bestselling rock band not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (The not-yet-eligible Coldplay and Linkin Park are bridges we’ll cross down th...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

SAY YES: COUNTDOWN IMPROV FESTIVAL Since its debut in Tampa last year, the 3-2-1 Improv Festival has grown in size and scope, adding acts and changing its name. Now the Countdown Improv Festival, this three-day celebration of spontaneity brings 39 gr...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Goody Goody stars in latest documentary by Tampa’s video historian

Goody Goody stars in latest documentary by Tampa’s video historian

The documentary debuts this Saturday at 2 p.m.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Could Peter Weller return as RoboCop?

Could Peter Weller return as RoboCop?

So here's a crazy rumor: Peter Weller, who starred in the original 1987 RoboCop, could reprise his role in an upcoming sequel. That is, if you belief Twitter.Movieweb.com reports that Neill Blomkamp (District 9) is directing RoboCop Returns, which wi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

The world's biggest pop star sat alone at a piano in Tampa, looking for the first time in a long time like she wasn't quite sure what to say."This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa," Taylor Swift told the crowd of mo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Scenes from Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour concert in Tampa

Scenes from Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour concert in Tampa

Review:The world's biggest pop star sat alone at a piano in Tampa, looking for the first time in a long time like she wasn't quite sure what to say."This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa," Taylor Swift told the crow...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 16

Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd: Multi-platinum selling artists team up to co-headline their Dazed and Blazed summer tour with special guests Lil Skies and O.T. Genasis. 6 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $29-$125.95. ...
Published: 08/15/18
5 things to do under $5: Duck Race, pet adoption drive, Reel Western Movie Series

5 things to do under $5: Duck Race, pet adoption drive, Reel Western Movie Series

1 Incredible Duck Race: The Hillsborough River will be awash in yellow when the Kiwanis Club of Tampa lets loose some 10,000 rubber duckies to "race" and win their adoptive parents cash prizes. The first-place duck gets $5,000, second place is $1,000...
Published: 08/15/18