by Mel Valentin
Comedies may be the most subjective of genres (and the subversive too), but that rule, if it’s actually a rule, isn’t applicable at all to "30 Minutes or Less," Ruben Fleischer’s woeful, disappointing follow-up to "Zombieland," a horror-comedy that surprised moviegoers and critics alike two years ago. For Fleischer, a director who seemed to show so much promise, "30 Minutes or Less" is a step back (or step down). Fleischer certainly didn’t choose wisely when it came to scripts. Working from Michael Diliberti’s screenplay (Diliberti shared story credit with Matthew Sullivan), Fleischer manages to make "30 Minutes or Less’" 89-minute running time (including credits) feel twice or even three times as long, due to actor-comedians Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, a wannabe criminal mastermind with a sub-100 IQ and a sub-moronic sidekick, respectively, who consistently bring "30 Minutes or Less" down to the level of their characters.But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here; easy, considering how little there is to love (and, concomitantly, how much there is to hate) within 30 Minutes or Less’ relatively brief running time. Fleischer pairs off McBride and Swardson’s characters, Dwayne and Travis, respectively, against Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a stoner-slacker pizza delivery dude, and Nick’s ex-best-friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), a K-12 school substitute teacher. Think of Nick and Chet as Harold and Kumar, but without the Harold or the Kumar or anything remotely approaching the Harold and Kumar films’ often brilliant mix of low, middle-brow, and high-comedy into uniquely hilarious results. If only Fleischer and Diliberti had watched and re-watched the Harold and Kumar films or, barring that, re-watched Zombieland again, before beginning production on 30 Minutes or Less, the results would have been or, rather, could have been, far more tolerable.
"if only the running time had been true to the title."
Back to 30 Minutes or Less: Dwayne and Travis need a patsy, a fall guy to rob a bank for them. Dwayne, desperate for his Lotto-winning, ex-Marine father, identified only as the Major (Fred Ward), to pass on to the great battlefield in the sky so he can inherit his remaining million(s) and open up a tanning salon/brothel (his life’s dream, apparently), decides not to wait and hire a hitman. Spurred on by a past-her-prime stripper, Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), with a hitman connection, Chango (Michael Peña), Dwayne puts his ill-thought-out, ill-advised plan into motion. Chango doesn’t come cheap, though (he wants 100 large for the job), leaving Dwayne with the aforementioned need for a bank-robbing patsy. Nick’s just another stoner-slacker at the wrong place and the wrong time. When he wakes up after being knocked out by Dwayne and Travis, he’s wearing a bomb vest and given nine hours to rob a bank and return with $100,000 in exchange for the code that will stop the bomb from exploding.
Nick, of course, turns to the one and only person he knows, his ex-best-friend Chet, who, in one of 30 Seconds or Less’ countless implausibilities, decides to help Nick rob a bank. As with all plans (the need to pad out the running time also applies), Dwayne’s plans go awry. Suffice it to say they involve car chases through the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan where 30 Minutes or Less is set, Chet’s crush-worthy twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria), and multiple double- and triple-crosses, all ending, mercifully enough, with a head scratcher indicative of Fleischer and Diliberti’s inability to raise the material, apparently based on a tragic, non-comic criminal case that occurred almost a decade ago, above the pedestrian. Fleischer and Diliberti assume, without evidence, that throwing in a shedload of F-bombs, usually dropped by McBride’s boorish character, will generate laughs. They couldn’t have been more wrong.Sadly, "30 Minutes or Less" wastes the talents of everyone involved. It’s a waste of Eisenberg’s acting talents, not to mention the serious cred he obtained from his Oscar-nominated turn as Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" last year (referenced in an early unfunny joke), Ansari’s comedic talents (though the jury’s still out on his range), and Fleischer’s ability to pick material suited for his talents and/or skills behind the camera. As for McBride and, to a lesser extent, Nick Swardson, the less time in front of a camera, the better for everyone involved (i.e., moviegoers). Despite the near-universal praise for his role as Kenny Powers in "Eastbound & Down," McBride’s redneck shtick has grown increasingly loathsome, repugnant, and intolerable (not to mention stale and tedious). He either needs to develop a new character or retire from performing in front of the camera (calling it “acting” would be an insult to “actors” everywhere).
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20712&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/13/11 04:45:42