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In his sophomore directorial effort, Jeff Garlin plays a comedian looking for inspiration for his next movie.
Not much of a stretch. And judging by Dealin’ With Idiots, not much inspiration was found either. In this comedy described as being “fully improvised” despite a screenplay credit shared by Garlin and Peter Murrieta, the affable comedian/actor plays Max Morris, who decides that the neurotic, high-strung parents and coaches of his son’s Little League team would be the perfect subject for his next film project. The problem is, despite the fact that the cast is filled with a gallery of veteran comic performers, few of the characters they portray are very interesting.
Rambling and episodic without the necessary laughs needed to float its thin premise, the film simply wanders along from scene to scene, with Garlin’s Max delivering deadpan reactions to the supposed lunacy of the figures surrounding him. But unlike the similarly styled films by Christopher Guest, there’s little or no underlying structure to the proceedings, leaving the performers to drift along haplessly.
Yes, there are individual scenes that register, such as Bob Odenkirk’s oafish coach revealing himself to be even more of an asshole in his day job as the manager of a copy shop, or Max observing that the house shared by a couple played by Gina Gershon and Kerri Kenney-Silver doesn’t really seem very lesbian.
But in the course of the proceedings, which seem much longer than 83 minutes, genuine laughs are few and far between, with such normally reliable pros as Fred Willard (whose presence is apparently obligatory in such affairs), Richard Kind, Nia Vardalos, Jamie Gertz and others straining to find humor in their one-note characters. Most of the jokes, such as Garlin’s Batman-themed riffing on the fact that the baseball league’s head is named “Commission Gordon,” barely make an impression.
And the attempts at poignancy, such as Max’s imaginary conversations with the ghost of his father (played by Timothy Olyphant, in an example of supremely wishful casting), fall flat as well.
It’s unfortunate, because the laid-back Garlin is an engaging comedic screen presence, even if his character, supposedly the voice of sanity, proves himself to be no more likable than the annoying figures surrounding him.
Opens July 17 (IFC Films)
Production: Killer Films
Cast: Jeff Garlin, Steve Agee, Gina Gershon, Jami Gertz, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Richard Kind, Bob Odenkirk, Timothy Olyphant, J.B. Smoove, Nia Vardalos, Fred Willard
Director: Jeff Garlin
Screenwriters: Jeff Garlin, Peter Murrieta
Producers: Erin O’Malley, Christine Vachon
Executive producers: Arianna Bocco, Peter Murrieta, John Sloss
Production designer: Katie Byron
Composer: Larry Goldings
Not rated, 83 min.
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