Length: 95 minutes
Directors: Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson
Writer: Luke Wilson
Starring: Luke Wilson, Eva Mendes, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Eddie Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, Seymour Cassel, Jacob Vargas, Buck Taylor, Robert Musgrave, Billy Joe Shaver, Azura Skye, Nicole Swahn
Somehow this film managed to elude me. I have no idea how. The directorial debut of two out of the three Wilson brothers (Andrew and Luke) - not to mention Luke’s first screenplay (brother Owen, of course, also has a supporting role). It also somehow managed to elude everyone else. Filmed way back in 2005, it opened in Denmark and then was shelved for two years before receiving a very limited theatrical opening in the States. Needles to say, it made very little at the box office (a little over $48 thousand) and limped out onto DVD in October of the same year also unnoticed. I stumbled across the movie a few weeks ago and was surprised to see not only that the Wilson brothers were behind it, but also that the cast included Will Ferrell, Eva Mendes, Eddie Griffin, and Kris Kristofferson! How did the marketing department mess this up? The movie, though, is deliberately low key. It was obviously shot on a low budget (or at least to appear to look like that way) to pay homage to the independent films of the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s. It also pays a lot of love to the Wilson’s home state of Texas. The soundtrack is filled with a lot of ‘60’s and ‘70’s country rock. It is quirky and lovable in only a way the Wilson family could have made it. It also gives brother Luke a chance to show some acting flare for a change. Usually stuck as the straight man while brother Owen gets to shine (though Owen, as usual, does steal ever scene he is in), Luke actually gets to be the schemer for a change. He plays the title character, Wendell Baker, whom as the movie opens operates an illegal license distributing business for Mexican immigrants with his buddy Reyes (Jacob Vargas). He has a beautiful girlfriend, Doreen (Eva Mendes), who has stood by him since they were schoolmates. He doesn’t appreciate her like he should and puts all of his efforts into his fast talking money making schemes (at one point he even sets up a hilarious insurance fraud sequence with Reyes). After an unlucky event sends Wendell to prison, he loses Doreen to a shopkeeper named Dave (Will Ferrell- absolutely killer in an extended cameo). He is released and sent to a retirement home run by two con men, Neil (Owen) and McTeague (Eddie Griffin), who have a bit of shady business going on involving Neil’s beloved mother (Jo Harvey Allen) and prescription drugs. The rest of the movie revolves around Wendell changing his life around with the help of some of the retirement home members (including Wes Anderson favorite Seymour Cassel and indie icon Harry Dean Stanton) and trying to win back Doreen and his dignity. Not everything in the movie works- it tends to shift into cheese mode from time to time (particularly a subplot involving trying to get the old codgers laid and a tacked on happy ending), yet there is, like I wrote earlier, a lot of love put into the film. It reminded me at times of the Coen brothers classic, “Raising Arizona”, but with a dash of “My Name is Earl” added in (and, of course, a little Wes). It may not be for all tastes. It may be a little on the odd side for the average Ferrell and Wilson fans, however if you give it a chance you may find yourself a little gem.
Buy the DVD here