Who's In It: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, J.K. Simmons, Kelsey Grammer, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ray Liotta
Tim Allen finishes a three-year term in prison for video piracy ("...so people in China could enjoy Lars and The Real Girl
," he says, in one of the film's two funny moments ) and returns home to his smothering sister (Weaver), her grumpy husband (Simmons) and a probation officer (Tripplehorn) whose kid tries to use Allen in a matchmaking scheme. Meanwhile his old crime buddy Ray Liotta wants him back on the job even though Allen wants to go legit and reopen his dad's commercial painting business. Then there's Allen's old girlfriend that he thought was dead (Oh, Sis, you storyteller!) and her new boyfriend Kelsey Grammer. She and Allen have lots of sex on the side and he winds up hiding places and leaping out of windows right before you hear sound effects like big garbage cans tumbling and cats screeching. The script is from some guys who used to write According to Jim
. I could have probably just said that and spared you the synopsis, I know.
What's The Deal: In your life you've met people who say and do intentionally wacky things that you've seen done a thousand times before. They're trying really hard to be outrageous, putting on a show for you about how "off the wall" they are, how unpredictable and comedic they can be. They say stuff like, "That's just me! I'm crazy!" But you know, even if they don't, that there's nothing fresh or new or dangerous about anything they're doing and it makes you wish the word "crazy" would be reserved exclusively for people suffering from mental illness. But it never will be. It's a word we've killed in the name of almost-comedy. And this movie is another nail in its coffin.
What Basic-Cable Planet It's Set On: This vanity project has the feel of an extended sitcom pilot. And though it's probably close to first-time director Allen's heart, since he spent over two years in prison back in the late '70s, it still has cheap, make-no-sense TV yuks written all over it. Like when silly things happen on screen, Allen cuts to incomprehensible reaction shots from statues and bobblehead dolls and porcelain poodle figurines whose eyes move, as if suddenly we've entered another universe and everything has a soul and facial expressions. I kept waiting for the chairs to start talking.
Favors Phoned In: You ache for Sigourney Weaver's presence here. She's too awesome to be stuck in this and she looks mortified about the entire process. Meanwhile, J.K. Simmons takes crap and makes craponade by delivering all his lines like he's above it all. It helps that his character is supposed to act like that anyway, but I figure he'd do that even if it weren't called for. He gets the other funny bit in the film where they tell Allen's mom he's been in France instead of prison. Simmons asks Allen over dinner whether or not he'll be going back to France soon since statistics show that once you've been to France you're likely to return. Honestly, it plays funnier than it reads. That's the magic of good acting.