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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.65%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 11.76%
Pretty Bad: 5.88%
Total Crap: 11.76%

1 review, 11 user ratings

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Wendell Baker Story, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"As character actors the Wilsons are cool; as filmmakers they're even better"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Luke Wilson and his brother Owen have popped up in a lot of movies over the past several years, a few of which are excellent. Most of 'em waver between half-decent and rancid. But where these guys are concerned, two things are important: they're both damn fine screenwriters AND they both obviously pay attention on the job. Supporting turns in disposable comedies might help to pay the bills, but I bet these Wilson boys use each gig as an opportunity to learn more about the craft of filmmaking. Based upon what I saw in "The Wendell Baker Story," these guys have been doing their homework.

There's actually a trio of Wilson brothers, and all three of 'em have worked with writer/director Wes Anderson on numerous occasions. I mention this mainly because Luke Wilson and his brother Andrew have made a movie of their very own (and of course Owen is along for the ride) and it's pretty clear that Wes Anderson's touch has rubbed off just a little bit. Much like Anderson's Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, The Wendell Baker Story is pretty much loaded with oddball quirks, strangely lovable characters, and a decidedly bizarre sense of humor. It's a modern-day tall-tale crowd-pleaser that succeeds through simple charm, cockeyed humor, and bunch of great characters.

Wendell Baker is a dead-end, Texas-fried, ne'er do well. He's that lovably sardonic slacker that Bill Murray used to play so damn well (think Stripes). Wendell pays the bills by selling fake IDs to Mexican immigrants, an activity that eventually lands our hero in jail. Upon his release Wendell finds that his formerly devoted girlfriend (Eva Mendes) has moved on to greener pastures. Hoping to somehow mature into something resembling a responsible adult, Wendell takes a job at a hole-in-the-wall retirement hospital -- and soon discovers that the kind-hearted old tenants are being exploited by a pair of moronic administrators.

So it's a redemption tale, a character study, a goofball farce, and a sweet-natured romance all in one breezy little package. If it's Luke Wilson's screenplay that sets the right tone early and often, then it's the truly eclectic ensemble cast that keeps the whole project afloat. Luke does a bang-up job in the lead role, creating a character who's both an undeniable troublemaker and an effortlessly likable mini-hero. Owen Wilson (along with partner Eddie Griffin) delivers some of his funniest work to date as the devious head nurse; a trio of fantastic old pros (Seymour Cassel, Harry Dean Stanton & Kris Kristofferson) anchor the film with true wit and warmth; Will Ferrell drops by with an extended cameo that's truly quite hilarious.

The Wendell Baker Story is laden with adorable people and plenty of happy endings. Indeed the movie seems to hearken back to the good-natured old screwball classics in which dialogue and character were infinitely more valued than pointless profanity and endless fart jokes. This is a quiet and enjoyably laid-back affair, and it's a movie that should prove an absolute delight to fans of the Wilson boys.

This is not a movie about deep themes and sobering contemplation; it's a light and smoothly winning tale of friendship, loyalty, love, and the fine art of (finally) becoming a grown-up. Plus (and most important) it's really very funny.

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originally posted: 03/23/05 11:22:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/18/07 Jeff Anderson Easygoing & enjoyable. Mendes is sexy as ever & Stanton, Cassel & Kristofferson are great. 4 stars
11/08/07 William Goss Thoroughly amiable effort by the Wilson clan. 3 stars
10/31/07 Mahone Now we know why Owen Wilson attempted suicide 1 stars
10/14/07 IAL Liked the soundtrack, cant find it aswell though, imdb ftl. 4 stars
6/03/07 mody cute one and i really like its music and soundtracks which i cant find them but i enjoyed 4 stars
10/25/05 Cat Excellent Film 5 stars
10/24/05 SUGAR PLUM Really enjoyed this movie - sweet, well acted and very funny 5 stars
6/22/05 Film lover With all due respect to the reviewer, this film is really bad. The scipt is pretty sloppy. 2 stars
3/22/05 Cheri Laughed all the way through this movie! Will Farrell steals the show! 5 stars
3/16/05 Marc Cute, but could have been told in 30 minutes. The end was awesome though. 3 stars
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  DVD: 30-Oct-2007



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