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50/50 will make you laugh and cry

In last week’s review of “The Lion King 3D,” I lamented the fact that some parents insist on bringing their screaming spawn to the theater in a merciless attempt to destroy all that is good and enjoyable about the theater-going experience.  
“The Lion King” is a children’s movie though, so it’s at least understandable that there would be children there to see it.  
“50/50,” on the other hand, is an R-rated dramatic comedy (or comedic drama?) about a guy with cancer.  
Despite this, some people still insisted on bringing their children with them to see it — and you better believe they were obnoxious.
But back to the movie, “50/50” has been marketed as the usual Seth Rogen comedy (Rogen co-produced and plays a supporting role in the movie), but honestly, it’s closer to “(500) Days of Summer” than “Superbad.”  
Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in both “(500) Days” and “50/50,” and he plays a similar character in both, sort of an affable everyman that we geeks can relate to and then feel bad for when his life goes in the toilet.
Here he plays Adam, who has the pretty girlfriend, a wacky best friend (Rogen) and an overbearing and smothering mother (a wonderful turn from the great Anjelica Huston). He has a good job in radio, and his life seems to be great.  
Then he finds out he has cancer and high jinks ensue.  
Actually they don’t. This isn’t a zany comedy.  
The movie gets surprisingly dramatic when it comes to the bits of Adam dealing with having cancer.  
It’s on Gordon-Levitt to carry the film, and he proves himself quite capable and never becomes cliché as Adam.
You feel for him as his life is turned upside down, and though his friends and family do their best to help him through the situation, he really finds no comfort from encouragement. He perseveres in his own way, though, and never really becomes bitter.
Rogen is at his best in these kinds of movies, where he can play a funny supporting role without really having to carry the bulk of the movie himself. Smaller roles also make it slightly less obvious that he’s playing basically the same character in every movie he’s in, so we’re not as likely to get sick of him so quickly the way we did with Will Ferrell.  
Rogen provides the bulk of the comedy here, and he even sneaks in a few heartfelt moments.
Anna Kendrick, the only good thing to come from the “Twilight” movies, plays Adam’s therapist and continues to shine as one of the best young actresses in Hollywood.  
She’s already been nominated for an Oscar after her role in the phenomenal “Up in the Air,” and I predict she’ll wind up winning one eventually. She doesn’t have a lot to do in “50/50,” but she makes her screen time count and, luckily, never devolves into the unrealistically “perfect girl” who only exists to help her man find his own happiness.
As I said before, Anjelica Huston is marvelous in her role as Adam’s mother and lights up every bit of her limited screen time.  
I tend to think of “The Addams Family” or “The Witches” or various Wes Anderson movies when I hear her name, so this isn’t the kind of role we’re used to seeing her in, which I think adds to the charm of the character. She’s a pro and makes the part of the mother so much more than it would have been with a lesser or overexposed actress.
Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer are two of those “that guy” actors that you instantly recognize from other movies but probably have no idea what their names are. They are also a lot of fun in their fairly minor roles as men Adam meets when he goes in for chemo.
Was there anything I didn’t like? The movie starts off a bit slow, and for at least the first half hour I was expecting it was going to wind up being very bad or at least very mediocre.
Once reality sinks in for Adam, though, it gets much better and never lets up from there.  
I also thought the ending was a just a little bit wonky and seems to go out of its way to tie everything up into a nice little bow. That’s only a minor complaint though. This is a feel-good movie, so in that sense it succeeded.
So, in the end, “50/50” is one of the better movies I’ve seen this year. It deals with some heavy stuff but is still ultimately light and breezy, never becomes too depressing, brings a fair amount of laughs and sends you home happy.

Follow Josh Presley on Twitter @joshuapresley.