This weekend, I caught an advanced screening of a new alleged comedy called ‘The Extra Man’, as part of the Talk Cinema series (which I generally recommend, if there’s a branch in your area). The film stars Kevin Kline as a “Walker,” an older gentleman who mooches off wealthy women in exchange for escorting them to social engagements. In the story, he takes a desperately introverted young man (Paul Dano) under his wing and tries to teach him the rules of the game. The premise sounds kind of clever, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the movie is just dreadful.
Perhaps most disappointing is the amount of talent behind it. In addition to the leads, supporting roles are played by John C. Reilly (as the wacky neighbor), Dan Hedaya (as a competing Walker), and Katie Holmes (as the object of Dano’s desire). The film is based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, creator of the HBO series ‘Bored to Death’. It’s directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who had previously collaborated on the excellent ‘American Splendor’. I like all of those things (save perhaps for Holmes). You’d think this group of people could make something interesting.
The problem is that the film’s tone is just all wrong. After ‘American Splendor’, Berman and Pulcini made the tedious and bland Scarlett Johansson vehicle ‘The Nannie Diaries’. At some point after that, they were apparently introduced to the works of Wes Anderson (‘Rushmore’, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, etc.). ‘Extra Man’ tries desperately to ape Anderson’s cinematic style and dry wit, but fails miserably. The characters are overloaded with faux-“quirky” tics, which the actors have been directed to play to the rafters. Kline is a gifted comedian; in another movie, his eccentric nutjob might have been funny. But here, every single scene and every single line of dialogue from every single character is far too forced and overbearing. And poor John C. Reilly. I’ve liked him in plenty of other movies. Honestly, he ought to turn in his SAG card after this one. The character is an idiotic one-joke sitcom cliché dragged out much too long. He’s atrocious. Simply atrocious. I hated every single minute of this movie.
In the discussion afterwards, reaction from the (predominantly older) audience was more lenient on the film than I was. Still, even those that liked it didn’t sound all that enthusiastic about it. According to IMDb, Magnolia Pictures has distribution rights to the picture. It doesn’t appear that they’ve scheduled a release date yet. If they do, there’s no reason to waste your time or money on this. I wish I hadn’t.