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STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
• Interview with Christopher Guest and Judd Apatow
• Deleted Scenes
Let’s challenge ourselves to make a Judd Apatow movie without anyone who was on Freaks and Geeks or Gen X Cops 2: Metal Mayhem.
Bryan Callen, Matt Servitto, Jane Lynch, Alexie Gilmore, and about ten seconds of Colin Mochrie as Scrooge McDuck
Soon-to-be-married Bob and Cheryl require relationship counseling and get stuck with Dick and Nora Stelmack as their mentors. Low-budget quasilarity ensues.
All hail the low-budget car crash scene. Car parked safely at an odd angle? Check.
A few leaves thrown on the grill? Check. Smoke juice under slightly opened hood? No?
Someone’s getting fired.
It has come to my attention very recently, thanks to the IMDB page where I checked how to spell Servitto, that I am not supposed to have enjoyed this movie, which is a shame, because that puts my position as having enjoyed it (albeit slightly) as contrarian. And being contrarian is what everyone else is doing nowadays.
That said, this movie does not start off on the right foot. Bob (Callen) stands at the altar, presumably not long after exiting the lab where he was spawned from a Doug Stanhope / Shawn Hatosy gene-splicing. His fiancee Cheryl (Gilmore), having recently regained the ability to speak after a French plastic surgeon grafted Olivia Wilde’s jawline onto her previously procured Sigourney Weaver head, answers the minister with “I Do… and I Don’t.” Oh yeah, SPOILER and stuff. The director chose not to include the wah wah trumpet or audience “awwwwwwwww” track, but it’s okay. You’ll hear it in your head right before the freeze-frame and first-person narration begins.
Gene-splicing. French surgeons. Go ahead; tell me I’m wrong.
Our leads are likeable enough, but clearly set up as the straight characters. Make no mistake, this is a middling sitcom blown up to movie-size. The set-up involves several redundant scenes in which Bryan and Cheryl are told by their not-hilariously combative in-laws that they need pre-marital counseling in several redundant scenes*. I wondered to myself during this unfunny stretch whether or not the counselors would be zany. I did so hope they would be.
Cue Matt Servitto as Dick. This is where the movie surprised me. Once I got past Servitto’s unnerving Robert Downey Juniorisms,** I found him to be quite funny, if occasionally dipping his toe in the pool of annoying. Dick gets just about all the best lines, and Servitto does his very best with those lines.
“It is vitally important that you deliver this message to my half-brother on Kashyyyk!”
Jane Lynch, who I am happy to report reminds me not of face-grafting, gene-splicing, or purgatorial exile, plays Dick’s wife Nora a.k.a. The Jane Lynch Character®. Her substance abuse issues and cougarish tendencies come as no surprise, but do provide a laugh or two, whether you want to or not (I did not, and yet I did). Post-Glee, many people will undoubtedly give this movie a spin based on her involvement alone,*** and while they may be disappointed by her screen-time, their expectations of her will be met.
With Dick and Nora stealing the scenes, I suddenly found that I was often laughing with the filmmakers and not at them… most of the time. The interplay between the four leads is effective, and I found that the only pleaseGodmakeitstop moment of overly broad comedy came from when Dick and Nora were alone together, unfettered by the “normal” characters.
“But Mooooooom, you said I could buy a new Emily Strange shirt if I got a B in Algebra!
This being a romantic comedy, you will also need to endure some mopey montages set to indie music, and the inevitable Plot Point Two Estrangement, but you will find less slogging here than in your average Apatowniverse comedy (not to mention roughly an hour less running time). There are laughs to be had here for most people who give the movie a chance.
Special features include some mercifully deleted scenes that wear out their welcome in approximately 1 minute (unless you simply must see a dildo thrown into a pot of boiling water in slow motion, but I presume most of us have already seen that), and “interviews” with Judd Apatow and Christopher Guest which amount to them meandering through hammy unscripted roasts of Jane Lynch. Is a trailer really even a special feature anymore?
You may be surprised to know that the DP was a post-faking-his-own-death Stanley Kubrick
Presentation surpasses inception here – the movie was shot on a reported half-million bucks and it shows, but the disc looks and sounds fine. Seekers of an embossed slipcovered special edition with included 800-page making of hardcover will be disappointed to know this movie only comes in a standard case.
5.5 out of 10
*oh yes I did, sharp-eyed reader!
**the guy could very well be RDJ from the future sent back to earth to do his purgatorial penance in Baltimore-based, micro-budget rom-coms
***said the guy who wanted to publish the DVD after it sat for a year unwanted