Friday, August 12, 2011

30 Minutes Or Less

I had hopes that with the talent of the two leads and the good buzz on director Ruben Fleischer's previous film, "Zombieland," "30 Minutes or Less" would be more than it eventually ended up being, which is an occasionally funny, more often stupid, diversion.
It's a decent way to spend 90 minutes if you have nothing else to do, but it doesn't exactly scream "See me in the theater!"
The story is simple enough. Jesse Eisenberg's Nick delivers pizzas for a living, committing every moving violation in the book to get the pies to their destination on time, even when the location is clearly miles away. If he doesn't, it comes out of his pay, and one has to imagine that his pay isn't very high.
Nick is a prototypical movie version of the genial slacker. He's got a dead-end job, not much in the brains department and seemingly no ambition (and even less of a moral compass), yet he manages to be charming enough to have slept with his best friend's gorgeous twin sister (a potential for gags that's barely touched) who is actually going somewhere.
Meanwhile, his far-more responsible (but equally feckless) best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari, reduced here to a shrieking parody of a human) is a teacher at the local school and has just about as limited a future as Nick, not to mention an equally poor decision-making capacity.
At the same time, two complete morons (Danny McBride as Dwayne and Nick Swardson as Travis) hatch a complicated (and thoroughly inane) plan to kill Dwayne's Marine Corps vet father, The Major (Fred Ward) to inherit what's left of a $10 million lottery win.
This "plan" involves committing several smaller crimes, including strapping a bomb to Nick's chest to force him to rob a bank so Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber can get enough money to pay a hit man. See where this is going?
McBride, often hysterical in HBO's "Eastbound and Down," has become typecast and desperately needs to break out of this character. His variations on a theme of a crude, not-so-bright bull in a China shop is getting stale -- the effect of which in this film is the constant urge to reach through the screen and punch him in the mouth.
It didn't occur to me to do the math, but there may have been more crimes committed per minute in this film than in any since 1980's "The Blues Brothers," and some of them are indeed funny. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but go with it. Mostly, however, they're just stupid, not to mention poorly paced and frantically acted.
What it boils down to is, "30 Minutes or Less" is loaded with stupid characters, crude jokes (some funny, some not so much), one pretty good car chase, some very good actors in wasted, underwritten roles and a massive requirement of its audience to suspend disbelief.
Don't get me wrong. I love stupid humor, if it's stupid like a fox (get it?). I also don't have anything against mindless comedies, as long as they're funny. The thing is, if they're really funny, they're not really mindless. Basically, "30 Minutes or Less" isn't truly bad enough to be bad, but it's not really very good, either.