Vice may not be as cinematically satisfying a modern history lesson as Adam McKay’s tremendous achievement The Big Short, but brushing up on recent U.S. history is usually not this fun. McKay’s cinematic op-ed on the deleterious effects of the second Bush presidency, thanks to what he sees as Dick Cheney’s long political con, boasts performances that are nothing short of phenomenal.
Christian Bale’s transformation into the five-time heart attack survivor may not be as unbelievable as what he did to himself for The Machinist, but it is comprehensive. Even then, Amy Adams rules the screen anytime Second Lady Lynne Cheney shows up. Then there is Steve Carell’s unbelievable Donald Rumsfeld, who gets Rummy’s likable creepiness. (Who else so closely resembles a talking skull?)
And therein lies the problem with Vice, which ultimately feels more like a series of impressive “SNL” sketches—look, there’s Sam Rockwell as W! That’s Tyler Perry as Colin Powell!—than a biting satire wishing to be taken seriously. Maybe McKay did not go far enough. Why not cast pal Will Ferrell as W? Imagine the possibilities.