Nothing Funny About The Wendell Baker Story
- Thursday, November 01, 2007
DVD Release Date: October 30, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: May 18, 2007 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for some crude and sexual humor and language)
Run Time: 100 min.
Directors: Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson
Actors: Luke Wilson, Eddie Griffin, Eva Mendes, Harry Dean Stanton and Owen Wilson
To hear Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) tell it, he’s just a “dreamer” and a “venture capitalist.” To the rest of the world, however, he’s a felon who sells fake IDs to illegal immigrants. He’s also a braggart who mooches off his girlfriend (Eva Mendes), a former client. He takes the stunning beauty for granted and has never even said he loves her, but she stays true.
When Wendell finally gets arrested, the evidence is overwhelming, and he’s forced to do a long stint in the slammer. Prison is little more than a summer camp for him, however—a place where Wendell can read Hilton Conrad, hang out with the guys and play football. Even visits from the girlfriend just get in the way of Wendell’s many recreational pursuits. She finally wises up and dumps the guy, to his great surprise.
Upon release, Wendell decides to go into the “hotel” business, like Hilton and win the girlfriend back. He lands a job in a rundown retirement home, where he soon discovers that the head honcho, named Neil (Owen Wilson), is skimming money from all the residents. Neil periodically sends them off to his mother’s farm and, in their absence, collects the Medicaid checks. Neil also insults and humiliates his geriatric patients. Not to be outdone, his partner in crime (Eddie Griffin) does the same, adding a little physical abuse for good measure.
Neil wants Wendell to join in all the fun—especially the Medicaid scheme—but Wendell’s a changed man. Sort of. But as Neil says, “You’re either for me or against me.” Wendell isn’t “for” Neil, so he now has Neil as an enemy.
Written by Luke Wilson and directed together with his brother, Andrew Wilson, this movie was shot four years ago and opened the SXSW (“South by Southwest”) Film Festival in 2005. The fact that it was only released in theaters this year, however, pretty much says it all. The dialogue is stale and the plot isn’t particularly engaging—or believable, for that matter. Since when is going to the pen—in Texas no less—a walk in the park? When did 65- and 70-year-olds start moving into nursing homes in droves? And the ending, I won’t even go there.
With the exception of Harry Dean Stanton and Seymour Cassel, who play spunky patients, as well as brief cameos by Kris Kristofferson and Will Ferrell (who never misses a chance to appear in a Wilson film), the characters are overdone. All Owen Wilson needs to do is lick his lips and rub his hands a bit more and his goateed Nurse Ratchett would be a perfect Dr. Evil. Mendes barely moves her lips at all (not to be confused with her hips, which do move quite a bit). Griffin is mean, through and through—kind of like the film’s jokes, which ask us to laugh at cruelty toward the elderly.
Even Luke Wilson, who’s generally an affable actor, isn’t particularly believable. In fact, I found his character very annoying. I didn’t buy that Wendell suddenly started loving his girlfriend or that he had changed in prison. Frankly, he seems too stupid for either.
The humor is classic Wilson brothers, with lots of crass jokes and innuendos about sex and genitalia. The language is exactly what you’d expect from a PG-13 film. At least there aren’t any religious jokes. However, don’t be shocked when Stanton and Cassel hit on some very young girls—by telling them all the things they’ll do to them in bed, in detail. And try not to fall off your chair when those same girls actually give the old men their phone numbers. Pure male fantasy, to be sure. But … ewwwww.
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