by Charles Tatum
I will admit it. I am sometimes a jaded film reviewer. I will be watching a movie, and can accurately guess the plot points. This happens on good as well as bad films, and is the product of seeing thousands of titles in my forty years. "Man Overboard," one of those good films, kept surprising me as I watched it. More importantly, it had me laughing.C.J. (Matt Kaminsky) is one of the good guys. He runs a used boat lot, trying to get his lethargic sales team motivated- new guy Kyle (Graham Norris) thinks of his band, and little else. Frank (Floyd Vanbuskirk) shows up for the free donuts, never following up with prospective customers. Steve (Jeffry Stein) is completely inappropriate, cheating on his wife and happily advertising the fact. C.J. has two kids and another one on the way, and often takes his work home with him, going out of his way to sell his boats. He isn't high pressure, he makes and backs up good deals, but his wife Madeline (a hilarious Brooke Baumer) is beginning to resent the time he spends selling, and not spending with his family.
C.J. is also busy getting belittled by his former Marine father-in-law Kevin (Bobby Hall), who shows C.J. a house across the street for sale. In the mansion, C.J. the salesman meets his match with Johnny (Mel Fair), a realtor who will also do anything for a sale. Johnny pressures the family into making an offer on a house they cannot afford, and then later shows up at C.J.'s boat lot.
Johnny loves to sell, and is still looking for a career to be passionate about. He begins selling more boats than Kyle, Steve, and Frank combined, but does it through playing to the customers' emotions- and lying his pants off. To Johnny, the money is most important. C.J. likes what he sees and promotes Johnny to sales manager...and then Johnny's true colors come through.
To motivate his sales crew, he uses such time-tested methods as stun guns and extortion. Frank and Steve get the brunt of the abuse, Kyle looks up to Johnny, and C.J. is disbelieving of any accusations, since he has a giant new house he needs to pay for. Johnny's new customer base includes some shady types, and he partakes in some under the table deals (and out and out steals) until C.J. realizes too late what is happening to his business and life.
The screenplay, by Ashley Scott Meyers and Nathan Ives, starts light and airy, and takes the perfect amount of time showing us Johnny's dark side. They don't jump in too soon or too late, and this keeps the viewer interested. Once a plot revelation is reached, they wisely don't pound the joke into the ground for half an hour, their characters make totally believable decisions in light of their situations. The characters are all wonderful, and many scenes stand out long after the film is over (Madeline's solo sex scene with a busy C.J., Johnny's over-the-top sales pitches, the scenes in the middle of the end credits).
Oliver Robins' direction plays up the comedy and makes us sympathetic to C.J.'s plight. It is refreshing to see a normal married everyday guy as a hero. No shrewish wife, no wiseass kids, no affair on the side; it's all a little hard to believe, so don't wait for C.J. to wake up in Vegas and not remember how he got there, or anything like that. Despite the small budget, Robins' scene composition is good, and the actors are all on their game.
No one in the cast brings the film down, and aside from Kaminsky as C.J., Mel Fair is sure to get plenty of attention as Johnny. He is darker than Jim Carrey's Cable Guy, but never so dark that you forget this is a comedy. I have, and still do, work with people like Frank, Kyle, and Steve, so I can testify that these actors all score as their characters.Despite one or two hiccups here and there, "Man Overboard" is a solid, funny comedy. I came to cheer for these guys, and admire the cast and crew for not resorting to sophomoric shenanigans to get laughs. I am overjoyed to recommend this film. It is available through the website: http://www.manoverboardmovie.com.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19439&reviewer=325
originally posted: 07/23/09 05:35:08