The Informant!

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Scott Bakula and Joel McHale, listening intently on what Matt Damon has to say.

Steve Soderbergh is real hit-and-miss. He’ll do a movie I like, followed by a movie I hate. I enjoyed Michael Clayton, and Out of Sight was my favorite movie the year it came out. I wasn’t a big fan of his Ocean’s 11 pictures, and I hated Traffic.

The Informant! is both hit-and-miss, which is unfortunate. It has all the elements of what could’ve made a great film.

You can tell by the trailers, the movie poster (with the tag line “based on a tattle-tale”), goofy ties and hair of Matt Damon, as well as the “!” in the title, that this is supposed to be a funny picture about a serious topic. It’s that. Sometimes.

It’s based on a real-life nutjob named Mark Whitacre. He’s contacted by the FBI about his agro-chemical bosses fixing prices. They don’t get much from him, and as they walk away, he calls them back over. He tells them some stuff they might find interesting. Before you know it, they recruit him, bug him, and start working with him to bolster their case. Little do they realize what kind of goofball they’re dealing with.

Thos FBI agents are played brilliantly by Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Joel McHale (Talk Soup). They get some laughs with their frustrated facial expressions. There might have been a few other times I laughed; one time when Damon is staring into the hidden camera right before a board meeting.

A few times his droll narration was interesting, but since the guy is a nut, and they don’t delve into his nuttiness or what it stems from, that gets old quick. I’m also not sure why they’re trying to get laughs out of his clothing, and the orange hues the film was shot in. This isn’t the ‘60s. It took place from 1992 and 1996. So why the 60s look, with a jazzy score done by Marvin Hamlisch? It sounds more suited for an elevator, or an episode of Laugh-In. It’s distracting and unwelcome. It’s almost like they were trying to capture a Catch Me If You Can vibe.

I was also distracted seeing comedians I love popping up in small roles (Patton Oswalt, Tom Smothers).

Damon did gain 30 pounds for the role. I remember he lost a lot of weight for Courage Under Fire (an underrated movie I loved). Watch out, De Niro. After this weight gain, and his performances in the Bourne movies, you got somebody on your tail.

It’s going to be hard for filmgoers to really care about this character, but filmmakers should never worry about that. It just seems with a little tweaking of the script, a bit of humanity could’ve been added to this character.

This movie is uneven, gets repetitive, and isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. That being said, you’ll laugh enough that it’s not a horrible way to spend a few hours in the theatre.

It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.