Our critics choose between Get Low, Charlie St. Cloud, Dinner for Schmucks, and The Extra Man.
ANDREW: Back in March, during the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, I remember you and I wound up kicking ourselves when we discovered we’d not only missed a sneak-preview screening of this comic drama about a dying man (Robert Duvall) who throws his own funeral party, but we’d also missed Duvall’s castmate Bill Murray tending bar at a local watering hole shortly thereafter. And while I’m sure director Aaron Schneider‘s film won’t be quite as much fun as ordering a Shiner Bock from a genuine Ghostbuster, Get Low‘s enthusiastic early reviews (and Oscar buzz) could make this a Top One Movie we’re both willing to see during the second leg of your visit to my neck of the woods. (Or will our inability to reach consensus derail our moviegoing plans and force us once again into another long night of bar golf?)
SCOTT: Hey, I never pass up the chance to see Robert Duvall in a scary hermit beard, especially if Bill Murray is on hand to make mordant, deadpan observations about life and death. I agree that Get Low is a strong contender given its blackly comedic approach to the whole dying thing, which sets it apart from such maudlin and mawkish takes on the subject as, I dunno…
Charlie St. Cloud
SCOTT: It’s a big red flag whenever I see someone having a catch with a dead family member in a trailer for a movie that isn’t Field of Dreams, so this Zac Efron weeper has one strike against it right off the bat. It’s also yet another preview that leaves me feeling I’ve already endured the entire arc of the movie, from Efron’s grief over causing his brother’s death to his coping via hallucination/spiritual intervention to his eventual redemption via hot sailor girl. Any need to sit through the full-length version, or do you think you’ve got the gist?
ANDREW: Oh, I was sick of this particular gist after watching the two-and-a-half minute trailer, so I can’t imagine how tiresome the entire movie must be — though I suppose it should be noted that director Burr Steers also wrote Igby Goes Down, one of my favorite films of 2002. Then again, Igby didn’t feature a whiny ghost brother throwing a hissy fit ’cause his surviving sibling won’t play catch with his dead ass every day. If the kid were played by, say, Jonah Hill (reprising his role as the chopped-in-half ghost brother from Walk Hard), then I might have given Charlie St. Cloud a glance. But since the film seems to be playing its dopey concept straight, let’s just move on to…
Dinner for Schmucks
SCOTT: I have to admit, I can’t quite decide what to make of this one. On the plus side, this comedy features some of my favorite funny people of the moment, including Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement. And the premise — a gathering of high-powered executives who have each been challenged to bring the biggest possible idiot as a guest — has potential in a squirmy Curb Your Enthusiasm way. But I’m not sure I trust director Jay Roach, the man behind Meet the Fockers and Austin Powers in Goldmember, to walk the fine line necessary to keep Dinner for Schmucks from devolving into a mean-spirited embarrassment.
ANDREW: Well, Goldmember… what’s a director-for-hire to do? Bruthah’s gotta eat. But I actually thought Fockers was pretty funny, with Barbra Streisand turning in her most likable, recognizably human performance (in film or "real life") since What’s Up, Doc? So if Roach’s output is terrible with terrible collaborators (i.e., the toxic waste spill of Mike Myers’ recent comedy career) and so-so with non-comedians like Robert De Niro and Babs, then I’m hoping he’s savvy enough to simply yell "Action" and let his powerhouse cast do the rest in Schmucks. Me, I’d be surprised if the results aren’t worth a couple of hours of my time… but is the film Top One material? Or will that honor fall instead to our next contestant…
The Extra Man
ANDREW: So, I have four words for you: Kevin Kline, pompous gigolo. Are you convinced yet? Okay, 4.5 more words: Paul Dano, cross-dressing naïf. But wait! There’s more! Kline provides life lessons, while Dano teaches the cranky old New Yorker to live and love again! Now, the good news is this seemingly standard issue quirky-indie May-December bromance also features our beloved John C. Reilly and was directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the team behind the most excellent Harvey (R.I.P.) Pekar biopic American Splendor. But I’m guessing that won’t be enough to convince you to knowingly expose yourself to such a high dosage of Kline.
SCOTT: Well, it looks like John C. Reilly boasts an even more impressive scary hermit beard than Duvall in Get Low, but aside from that, Extra Man looks to contain at least 150 percent of my daily recommended dose of self-conscious quirkiness, and I wouldn’t want to violate my doctor’s orders. So, since Get Low appears to top out at about seventy-five to eighty percent, I’m going with the healthier choice as my Top One Movie this week.
ANDREW: Agreed… they had me at "Bill Murray plays a mordant funeral home director."
The Top One Movie of the Week: Get Low