dir: Stephen Brill
[img_assist|nid=103|title=There is death in my eyes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Soon after making this here particularly worthless flick, Owen Wilson tried to commit suicide. Coincidence?
Director Stephen Brill is responsible for two of the dumbest Adam Sandler comedies (if that isn't a tautology), being Little Nicky and Mr Deeds. Is it possible for a movie directed by such a lowlife to be anywhere near worth watching, especially considering the fact that one of its main stars tried to kill himself soon after the production wrapped up?
The premise revolves around nerds so nerdy the nerds from Revenge of the Nerds would beat them up, being terrorised by an evil bully. So desperate and afraid are they, and so blind is the school to the campaign of terror waged against them, that they decide to hire a bodyguard, who turns out to be a homeless bum. Are the people involved in this production likely to receive Nobel nominations some time next year for their services in highlighting the plight of the homeless?
It’s unlikely. Perhaps I’m making too much of Wilson’s attempted suicide, but the fact is, you know, for a few moments, I was contemplating embracing the emptiness of eternal oblivion just minutes into this misbegotten 80s throwback idiocy.
The fact that Judd Apatow’s name is attached to this and countless other flicks pumped out in the last few years serves only as further proof as to the devaluation of that particular selling point. This has as much in common with those ‘other’ Apatow flicks as it does with Battleship Potemkin or The Godfather.
It’s not as if ‘Judd Apatow’ is a seal of approval anyway. With the morass of flicks coming out under his shingle, it’s not as if it’s his name attached as director. Just as producer.
Regardless, irregardless and independent of everything else, I can’t say I was expecting masterpiece theatre going in. But even I wasn’t prepared for the dead look in Owen Wilson’s eyes that spoke of a soul burned away by having whored oneself out one time too many.
The two main nerds here are such quintessential looking nerds that there not believable as characters, but even then they’re the only almost believable characters in the film. The sweet, cowardly Wade (Nate Hartley) is pale, redheaded, sunken-chested, wears glasses and speaks in a high-pitched whine. The chubby, Jewish afroed Ryan (Troy Gentile) looks like a midget middle-aged bull dyke. In fact, there’s this actress who he is a dead ringer for whose name I couldn’t possibly recall who often shows up in those David E. Kelley television series (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) as a variation on an angry lesbian theme. No, I found her on the many and varied tubes of the internets: Wendy Worthington, who is probably a wonderful actress, and who probably doesn’t deserve to be maligned in such a tacky way. By me.
Anyway, the skinny nerd and Wendy Worthington start their first day of junior high, believing that their experience on this day will define the entirety of their high school experience. If they fuck that first day up, then it’s ignominy and horror for the next however many years of their lives.
It’s a uniquely American idea. I’m not saying that the US is the only country that posits through after-school specials, tv series and other media the idea that one’s teenage years are the most fraught with peril and potential social embarrassment that set the course for one’s entire life. After all, most of these shows are aimed at that demographic as their main consumers, so it’s naturally the setting they’re going to set their action in.
But American high school tales, with their focus on status, in-crowd out-crowd stuff, popularity, homecomings and proms would convince you like nothing else that life begins and mostly ends in high school.
Well it sucks for our main characters, but is surely wonderful from a plot point of view that their first day involves coming to the attention of a bully who decides to make their lives hell from thence onwards.
There is no possibility of escape, no quarter given or hope of reprieve. This strange sociopathic bully Filkins (Alex Frost) takes a passionate dislike to them, up until the point where he decides at some indeterminate point that he’s going to possibly kill them.
I’d like to think it’s not a coincidence that the actor who plays the bully also played a crucial role in the Columbine-inspired Gus Van Sant flick Elephant, as one of the school shooters. Sure he looks alien and insane, and at complete odds with everything else going on in this flick. But he does look like a loony, so I guess that’s a good thing (?)
The nerds decide to hire a bodyguard. They hold auditions, and end up with a wild cross-section of mercenaries, lunatics and gangstas who go overboard in their desire to get their low paying job. Not by coincidence, Adam Baldwin, who played the role of a hired high school bodyguard in the 80s flick My Bodyguard, also puts in an appearance. Wow, the kids would get a lot out of that.
For an “Apatow” flick, it’s pretty tame and lacking in the quintessential Apatowesque traits of vulgarity and swearing. I like vulgarity and swearing when it’s funny (which is almost always), but its complete absence here is quite noticeable.
If there had been oodles of obscenity, vulgarity and amusing swearing, at least there would have been something worth noting through this flick’s interminable 110-minute length. As it stands all you’re left with is Owen Wilson playing the most ill-considered, poorly caricatured version of a homeless character that has ever been committed to celluloid.
What this film does for the homeless is an atrocity along the lines of that there Borat film. The profound difference is that none of what transpires here is in any way redeemed by dint of a plot containing any worth or by being in any way funny or entertaining.
Our two main nerds (inexplicably) are protected for a while by the cliché-mantra spouting Drillbit Taylor, who claims to be an ex-Army Ranger, not by force but by his pretence that he’s a substitute teacher. In this day and age, the concept that a guy can just put on a tie and start working at a school without being noticed is inexplicable. Maybe it would wash in Guatemala, but the mandatory police checks (ya know, just to weed out those all those pesky sex offenders) required by any school would pretty much prevent most homeless guys from pretending to be Principal Skinner.
As idiotic as such a plot point proves, what is even more offensive is that Drillbit starts off as just one of those evil homeless burglars who rips off the wealthy kids and plans to take even more of their stuff in order to fund his lavish homeless lifestyle in the Hollywood Hills. But then he develops a conscience and grows to love (?) the boys, deciding to protect them after all.
There is so much wrongness on offer that it boggles the mind. The real problem, aside from the utterly retarded plot is that for pretty much the first time I can remember Owen Wilson plays a character that is completely unsympathetic and unlikeable.
Wilson doesn’t have a lot of range. The only time I’ve ever seen him vary from his raffish nice-guy ‘free spirit’ persona he played a blank serial killer in a flick called The Minus Man. The flick had a budget that wouldn’t have bought you a cup of coffee, but he deliberately played something different. Everything else he’s ever done has been the same comical shmuck with varying degrees of success.
I’ll be the first to admit that I like Owen Wilson and generally find him very entertaining, and sometimes I even find him the only tolerable aspect of some films. Here, I couldn’t wait for him to get off the screen.
The way the movie ends almost, ALMOST makes up for the preceding wasteland of an hour and a half. The two nerds are called out, and demand an end to their misery. The bully exhorts them to come to his house that night for a final confrontation.
The two nerds, who’ve learnt nothing from all the bullshit advice Drillbit’s been feeding them over the previous months, watch Fight Club in order to prepare for battle. If that wasn’t funny enough, they decide to get rid of their fear of being hit by hitting each other. This sequence, and the resulting (yet highly unbelievable battle), are about the only bits of the flick that work. Everything else in it is a childish affront to human dignity and an insult to Hollywood’s good name as a purveyor of quality entertainments to the masses.
Whilst it certainly doesn’t make the case that suicide is the preferable alternative to watching crap movies, and considering the fact that clearly Owen Wilson is no poster child for mental health, this flick should be approached with profound caution. With good reason, it makes people want to kill themselves.
3 Owen Wilsons combined could not have given life and energy to this lynching noose of a crap movie out of 10
“You'd be surprised, anything can be turned into a weapon of mayhem or destruction.”
- “Even a puppy?
“Especially a puppy. The Germans used them in World War I. De Hundin Schtorman, Lightning Dog. They'd attach dynamite to them. Rommel did it, jerry bastard.” - Drillbit Taylor