Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Millerâ??s crossing

Jay Baruchel is out of his league in starring role

Posted on Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 4:00 AM

**
She's Out of My League
Studio: DreamWorks
Rated: R
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, TJ Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence
Director: Jim Field Smith
WorkNameSort: She's Out of My League
Our Rating: 2.00

Bird-chested, ticking time bomb of neurosis Kirk Kettner, still licking his wounds over a bad breakup and dogged by his co-workers in the lower rungs of the Transportation Security Administration, has hit the jackpot. Through unlikely circumstances, a classically beautiful, high-class, low-maintenance woman has snatched him up. (Kettner's no looker.) She's been burned too many times and wants to try a regular guy on for size, so Kettner is thrust into the world of upscale dining, pearly white teeth and upwardly mobile pretty people. To complicate matters, the girl's fighter-pilot ex-boyfriend wants her back and Kettner's crippling insecurity immediately causes domestic trouble. 

It's a promising scenario that, despite the kind of cynics who insisted Seth Rogen could never land (the frankly rather plain) Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, presents real-world difficulties actual guys actually encounter. Not to get too anthropological here, but being with an exceptionally attractive woman invites competition from the herd that requires fending off suitors, many of whom are probably ' end of scientific verbiage ' big motherfuckers. What's a nice, nonviolent mensch supposed to do with that kind of trouble? 

A more intriguing premise is the subject of class differences and bridging the gap of social behavior. She's Out of My League touches on the subject, but lets it get away. Kettner (Jay Baruchel) comes from a fairly middle-class suburban home, though his parents, friends and big brother are depicted as knuckle-dragging grotesques and one wonders if the filmmakers are commenting on the disappearance of civility in the dwindling middle class. Probably not. His paramour Molly (Alice Eve), who's objectified so wholly that she's not given a last name, comes from more upscale stock. She's a lawyer, though she's given that up for ritzy event planning with her foul-mouthed monster of a best friend (played atrociously by Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter). 

Alas, the filmmakers have little to say in this regard, other than white, rich people still like to associate with those on lower rungs as a folly, a la My Man Godfrey. 

So what is on the screenwriters' and director's minds? Gags so base and vile that you would think the last 10 years of film comedy since American Pie never happened. They employ the lowest form of setup-spike guy humor: a character coins, then explains, a term that nobody would ever use in real life, like 'moodle� (man poodle), or espouses some ill-advised sexual philosophy that the character then attempts in the next scene with disastrous results. What the audience gets are scenes of irredeemably unfunny juvenilia ' testicle shaving, premature ejaculation, more pubic hair ' and a feeling of deep violation. 

Why Baruchel ever departed from the safety of the Judd Apatow camp (he starred in Apatow's TV series Undeclared, as well as in Knocked Up) and chose not to develop his own leading-man projects, as Apatow has done for so many of his other vets, is a curiosity. Baruchel's bundle-of-nerves riff on Albert Brooks has done him well up to this point, but this starring role seems to have exposed his inherent weakness as a romantic film lead. He simply can't hold a scene together to save his life and, worse, he's utterly upstaged by co-star T.J. Miller as Stainer, Kettner's friend and a bubbling cauldron of loudmouth rage. 

If She's Out of My League will be remembered at all, it will be as the first instance of Miller really stretching out and coming into his own, albeit stuck in a lesser movie. Miller was the best part of Cloverfield in his debut role, holding the camera while New York crumbles, and his self-made, role-winning audition for Yogi the Bear is already a YouTube classic. Here, he foams at the mouth like Jason Lee with an extra 50 pounds of funny on him and I have to believe that Baruchel is clever enough to know that he's just been jacked. 

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