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Movie review: '30 Minutes or Less' doesn't deliver

August 13th, 2011 5:45 am by Associated Press

It doesn’t even take a half hour to realize that “30 Minutes or Less” fails to deliver. The pizza isn’t very good, either, achieving the consistency of cardboard while ladling on the cheese, pork and ham.

Of these ingredients, the most tasteless are the imbeciles played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, two alleged comedians flailing in vain at trying to mine humor as dim-witted crooks plotting a kidnapping and murder-for-hire scheme that can’t possibly go right. And doesn’t.

Foiling them is Jesse Eisenberg, who goes from the smartest guy in the room in “The Social Network” to the most gullible dork in the pizzeria, where his job of delivering pies gets him kidnapped and strapped to a bomb that will explode if he fails to rob a bank for his bumbling captors.

Let the fun begin. Never mind that the story by Michael Diliberti is inspired by a real scenario in which the guy wearing the explosives died. But who cares about that when terrorism is so rife with humor? Me, I was rooting for detonation, putting both me and Eisenberg out of our shared misery of coming in contact with one of Hollywood’s biggest bombs.

The carnage is unspeakable. Not because it’s disturbing, but because most of the movie is so obsessed with raunchiness and gratuitous sex talk that it cannot be discussed in intelligent company. At least it’s an equal-opportunity offender encompassing classism, racism, misogyny and just plain idiocy.

Hardly the film you’d expect from Ruben Fleischer, the director who dazzled with his last endeavor, the wonderfully clever “Zombieland.” But then that divine comedy had Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin and Eisenberg, a star more accustomed to working with immense talents instead of slacker stiffs like McBride and Swardson, two actors who are the antithesis of gifted. The only thing either is adept at is being annoying, which becomes painfully clear here early on when we meet McBride’s Dwayne.

One must usually travel to a NASCAR event to meet such a stereotypical redneck, but Fleischer, unfortunately, saves us the trip by leading us to the nouveau riche pad Dwayne shares with his violent ex-Marine dad (a slumming Fred Ward), who won millions in the lottery a few years back.

It’s Dwayne’s goal, you see, to get his big, fat mitts on Dad’s stash. But to do that, he’ll need to off Pops. Because Dwayne and his even more infantile pal, Travis (Swardson, an Adam Sandler sycophant), can barely figure out how to insert bread into a toaster, they’ll need to hire a hit-man, a tattooed Chicano (Michael Pena, embarrassingly immersing himself in stereotypes) natch, to do the deed.

That’s where Eisenberg’s Nick enters the fray. The two apes, appropriately sporting monkey masks, lure Nick into their trap and before he can make a run for it, a C-4-loaded vest is strapped around his scrawny chest, and he is then ordered to steal the exact amount of money they need to pay the hit-man or risk getting blown to smithereens. Think Patty Hearst, but not nearly as funny.

Unlike Hearst, Nick is able to recruit an accomplice in Aziz Ansani (“Parks and Recreation”) to help him knock over the bank. Only problem is that Ansani’s Chet still loathes Nick for robbing his twin sister’s virtue years ago on prom night.

Thus the stage is set for director Fleischer to double the ante with dueling bromances involving the crooks and the alleged good guys.

All well and good; or at least it might have been if either of the pairings were the least bit funny or compelling. They’re not. And it’s not long before boredom and frustration set in, as all four actors set their brains on automatic pilot and go through the rote motions in building toward a finale even more asinine than you’d expect.

Never once do you care about any of the four or their plights. You just root for them to hurry up and get on with their machinations so the time wasted can be kept to a minimum. To Fleischer’s credit, he mercifully limits the torture to a mere 83 minutes. But even then, “30 Minutes or Less” feels longer than it needs to be.

30 MINUTES OR LESS Rated R. Cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Fred Ward, Nick Swardson and Aziz Ansani. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. 1 star out of 4.


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