Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: 30 Minutes or Less

I’m a little late on this movie.  It’s been sitting on my iPad for months, but I’ve repeatedly passed it over in favor of other options.  I’m not really sure why.  On paper it looked like it should be a decent romp with Jesse Eisenberg undoubtedly delivering his usually nervous twitchy performance and with Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari sure to deliver some absolute hilarity.  Yet for some reason, I avoided it.  Having watched the movie, I now realize that I probably should have trusted my instincts on this one. 

The plot of 30 Minutes or Less follows Eisenberg’s Nick, a pizza delivery guy stuck in a life rut who is forced to rob a bank by McBride’s Dwayne – a man who has designs on opening up a tanning salon/whore house.   If the plot seems a bit juvenile and disjointed then you’re on the right track.

The problem with the movie first and foremost is that it is just not entertaining.  If you take it as a comedy, which would be an easy assumption given the cast, then you’ll find yourself disappointed.  Eisenberg is a good actor but is never really funny on his own.  His poor man’s Woody Allen shtick is more suited as the set up rather than the punch line.  To borrow a bowling analogy, he sets up the pins and other more charismatic actors knock them down.  Knowing that Ansari and McBride were cast in supporting roles, I thus expected a series of strikes.  But the kind of comedy that comes from letting very funny actors improvise and ad lib is sorely lacking and leaves` the plot feeling flat. 

On the other hand, if you went into the movie focused on the bank robbery, car chases, and explosions, you would undoubtedly find yourself equally underwhelmed.  The premise is silly, the execution loaded with plot holes, and the dialogue campy.  Nothing in the movie on the action side of the ledger is up to the task of masking those shortcomings.  These deficiencies  and specifically the campy quality of the film  would not have been as much an issue had the comedic pitch of the film been up to snuff, but unfortunately, such is not the case so all the attempts at physical comedy feel extremely pedestrian. 

As for the cast, each does very little to warrant merit.  Eisenberg was good in The Social Network, decent in Zombieland, and less than stellar in To Rome with Love.  Clearly he is a one trick pony.  The nervous neurotic pitch and posture that he carries himself with is far less charming and exponentially more annoying when the source material is weak as is the case in 3this film.  He doesn’t get much help from Danny McBride who is usually comedic gold when given the opportunity to run his lines loosely and see where it takes him.  It feels like he is reigned in during this movie so while the jokes are still raunchy and brash, they lack his usual laugh inducing punch.  Ditto for Ansari who is uncharacteristically tame as Eisenberg’s best bud and lacks a chemistry with Eisenberg.  As for Nick Swardson, his mere presence in the movie knocks it down a half grade on account of his work with Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Grown Ups, and most specifically the cinematic atrocity that is Bucky Larson:Born to Be a Star.  He's not atrocious in this movie, but as usual, he's just not very good.

So the verdict is in on 30 MInutes or Less and that verdict says that this movie has TBS written all over it.  On a very slow Friday night when everyone you know is busy, the weather outside is crappy, and no good sports programming  is on TV, then you may  find value in watching this.  Otherwise I would have to say this is probably a no.  There are a ton of other movies that fuse the action and comedy genres into one with more laughs and adrenaline.  Normally I wrap up a review with a heads up on some other project that one of the principal cast members is involved with, but none of these guys really have anything good coming up on the big screen.  In lieu of this, I will offer up a one piece of advice: just say no to anything associated with Nick Swardson.

Standout Performance: Dilshad Vadsaria. For the actress, this is a case of less is more as in the less you appeared in this movie, the more props you receive.


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