The Big Short an overstuffed affair

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      Starring Christian Bale. Rated 14A.

      U.S. audiences desperately needed The Big Short, given the number of jail-free plutocrats who just keep screwing them—cost of lube, if any, extra.

      Adam McKay has himself netted millions writing, producing, and directing Will Ferrell flicks. And arguments can be made for the subversive qualities of Talladega Nights. But it’s still a surprise to see his take on Michael Lewis’s math-heavy tome about the economic collapse of 2008. With the help of screenwriter Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs), McKay zeroes in on the book’s central players, financial outliers who saw through the cloud of corruption allowing Wall Street bigwigs to make billions on grossly inflated home mortgages.

      Entertaining quirks are moved to the forefront in this parade of bad haircuts, led by Christian Bale’s Michael Burry, a one-eyed doctor and money manager with a special feel for numbers. He glimpses the possibilities of betting against the system, as does Steve Carell’s kvetchy Mark Baum, a disillusioned idealist who uses his money squad to investigate so-called triple-A ratings on faulty mortgages. (Canadian regulators were more vigilant in this arena, fortunately.) Brad Pitt has a few scenes as a former trader who gives Zen-like guidance to young investors who also smell a lucrative disaster on the horizon.

      Furthest ahead of the curve, by several years, is a Wall Street insider played by Ryan Gosling, who also narrates the over-two-hour tale with a sharky smugness that turns out to be the movie’s most consistent reward. They’ll all make a killing by betting against America, and some tears are shed in the back of the limo. A few females appear, obligatorily.

      McKay frequently interrupts his already overstuffed story with comic devices, such as having Margot Robbie, in a bubble bath, explain subprime mortgages—thereby underlining the film’s aspirations to be another Wolf of Wall Street. Even bit players break the fourth wall to address the camera with pithy, increasingly exhausting insights. But that’s fair enough, since there are no walls—or roof, or basement—when your home has been handed over to Chase Manhattan because, as Donald Trump would say, “you’re a loser.”