Movie News & Reviews

'30 Minutes or Less' a mirthless comedy

Basing a goofy crime comedy on a real-life case full of horrific violence: great idea or greatest idea?

I've got a feeling audiences will go crazy for this romantic comedy I'm working on about the BTK strangler finding love after unwittingly kidnapping the woman of his dreams. If that one fails, I'm looking into a can't-miss sequel tentatively titled Look Who's Talking: Dear Zachary.

The writers of 30 Minutes or Less claim they were just vaguely aware of the real-life event their movie's plot is almost exactly identical to, right down to the motivations spurring the crime. But even if they're not guilty of theft, they're guilty of a far worse crime: making a comedy that isn't any damn funny.

Jesse Eisenberg is a pizza delivery boy. This makes him the perfect target for delusional crooks Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, who need $100,000 to hire a hitman to kill McBride's overbearing millionaire father.

Instead of robbing a bank themselves, they call in for a pizza, kidnap Eisenberg and knock him out. When he wakes, he finds a bomb strapped to his chest. If he doesn't rob a bank and bring McBride the money within 10 hours, he'll be blown to smithereens.

You know how sometimes you order a pizza with everything you like on it, like sausage and bacon and mushrooms, and then the pizza gets there and it's just no good and all you can eat is the toppings? No. You don't. Because all pizza is good. But let's pretend it can be bad. In that case, 30 Minutes or Less is a pizza with all my favorite ingredients -- Hawaiian with sausage and white sauce; don't hesitate to send one my way, you're already online -- only instead of being delivered to my front door, I wish it had been delivered directly to the garbage.

I like the cast of 30 Minutes or Less a lot. Eisenberg's pretty great, and his supporting cast of McBride, Swardson, and Aziz Ansari are all funny people. The ingredients are good. I would eat these ingredients, possibly with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Unfortunately, they are served on a greasy, soggy pie of lackluster direction and witless writing.

All right, enough with the pizza jokes. On with the unwarranted dismantling of a movie that only wishes to entertain us!

30 Minutes or Less is a comedy. Ostensibly, anyway, he said with insulting italics. But first-time screenwriter Michael Diliberti makes very few of what you call jokes. Instead, he smashes a bunch of profanities together and expects for that to produce humor. Possibly, this complaint makes me sound like a cane-waving old man, but have you hung out with any 13-year-old boys lately? If so, that's weird and I'm telling. But also, then you would know that strings of naughty words are not a recipe for automatic laughs. Jokes should contain jokes.

And while I appreciate that Eisenberg's character actually has the background to be a rad driver, it is not actually mandatory for all comedies to have a screwy car chase. The audience I was with didn't seem any more enthused; during one real laugh late in the film, it felt like we were all relieved to finally crack up. Meanwhile, the emotional side shoots for some Pineapple Express-style bro bonding, but with so little setup, it feels as forced as the entry I plan to make on your house the next time you--wait, this isn't my crime journal. Why do I keep a crime journal in the first place?

30 Minutes or Less' weak sense of humor isn't helped by director Ruben Fleischer. Director of Zombieland, which was actually kinda crummy, his followup is low-energy, tonally off, and amazingly boring for a movie that's just 83 minutes long. You would probably get more laughs spending 83 minutes at a busy crosswalk waiting for someone to fall down. Take that, harmless comedy movie.

Grade: D+

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, and through Smashwords.

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