When Tina Fey gets it right, she nails it. So much so that whatever she does becomes a part of the current culture. No one will forget the impact her Sarah Palin impression had on a presidential campaign. There is no teenager or young adult who can’t quote Mean Girls. There is no doubt that the Academy will keep asking her and her often partner-in-crime Amy Poehler to host the Oscars. In short, Tina Fey has several bottles of lightning on her shelf.
While she doesn’t get Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wrong, she certainly doesn’t nail it either.
Based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle, the film follows Kim Baker (Tina Fey) as she transforms her dull life into a near-death high by becoming a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Once she arrives, Kim quickly learns how every journalist deals with the dangers of war and joins in on the fun.
Given their subject matter, war comedies are tricky to pull off, especially when the war in question is still ongoing. This is why Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not for everyone. Although I enjoyed it, I can understand why someone else wouldn’t; it’s an odd film that tries to be everything. Because of that, the film never fully commits to its humor or its drama, leaving audiences unsure about how to take the film in.
The tonal shifts throughout the film may thematically fit with Kim’s overall journey and growth as a character, but they can be jarring for a filmgoer. The imbalance of drama and comedy causes some jokes to feel out of place and detracts the impact of tense scenes. Certain exaggerations for the sake of humor will force audiences’ eyes to roll.
That being said, you will laugh. If you are a fan of Tina Fey and her work, most of the jokes will land.
The cast does a fine job with what they are given. Fey and Margot Robbie are an interesting duo to see on screen together, despite the superficiality of what they are given to work with. I am now incredibly curious to see Fey in a dramatic role. Robbie can tag along too. Billy Bob Thorton and Martin Freeman are unsurprisingly charming, while Alfred Molina is hit or miss. His performance is funny but shouldn’t an Afghan in a high government position be taken seriously at least once?
Molina’s character may represent Whisky Tango Foxtrot’s weaknesses, but Christopher Abbott’s performance as Fahim Ahmadzai absolutely represents its strengths. The least exaggerated character of the film, he makes you laugh without losing any credibility. Fahim is the unexpected heart of this movie and Kim’s most important relationship.
Like most book adaptions, Whisky Tango Foxtrot had too much story to tell for a film under two hours. Nonetheless, the film is entertaining. And hey, how often do we see a movie about a forty-something year old woman going on an adventure, wanting to escape her ordinary life only to be thrust into a war? Am I trying to make some parallel between Tina Fey and Luke Skywalker? Yes, yes I am.
Bottom line is this: If you like Tina Fey, watch this movie. If you want to see the best movie out this weekend, watch Zootopia.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was released March 4, 2016.