Jeff Daniels got raved reviews for his performance in a true story – Gettysburg. A year later followed it up with Dumb & Dumber.
Jesse Eisenberg got an Oscar nomination for the true story — The Social Network — and followed it up with 30 Minutes or Less. This is his Dumb & Dumber.
He delivers pizzas and gets high (isn’t that a Harry Chapin song?). His best friend Aziz Ansari (Parks & Reacreation) seems to grow up a bit more, and becomes a school teacher.
A few other best friends in the movie are doing less than delivering pizza. They dream of opening a tanning salon (as a front for prostitution), and they get ragged on by dad Fred Ward.
They come up with the plan of kidnapping a pizza guy, strapping a bomb vest on him – and making him rob a bank. With the money, they’ll pay a hit man (Michael Pena) to take care of dad, a tough retired Marine, who won $10 million in the lottery.
This will give them the inheritance to make all their dreams come true.
When I debated this movie with another critic on KOGO AM 600, he and the show host had a problem with the fact that a pizza guy had been kidnapped years ago and died when the bomb exploded.
Many other critics have mentioned that because of that story, they can’t support this film.
Well, that makes absolutely no sense.
First of all, most authorities believe that pizza guy was a participant in that and not a victim.
Second, there have been other stories of similar things happening (one last month, with a blonde girl in New Zealand who was kidnapped and had a bomb strapped to her).
Filmmakers can’t start looking at the premise and not making movies because it might be sensitive to family members that had similar things happen to them. Otherwise, nothing would be made.
Danny McBride and Nick Swardson are the two guys that strap the bomb on Eisenberg. Usually in movies, I don’t find those guys funny; but McBride actually has a few good zingers in this (one involves him trying to pronounce the word “entrepreneurial”).
Ben Stiller is one of the producers, and he produced my favorite comedy of the year – Submarine. I hope he keeps getting behind these comedies, which seem to be getting excessively raunchy, to draw in the Hangover audiences. That doesn’t always equal funny (as we saw in Hangover II).
I think back to Pineapple Express with McBride, and how disappointing and disjointed it was.
Director Ruben Fleischer gave us Zombieland (which was mildly amusing, but not as good as most critics gave it credit for). For some reason, critics haven’t been kind to 30 Minutes or Less, and it’s good.
Ansari steals every scene he’s in.
Pena plays an intimidating, and at times funny, hit man. And with him and McBride playing guys that are a tad scary in a realistic way – it works better than if these two criminals were just bumbling idiots.
That’s what smart comedies do.
The entire bank robbery scene involves two guys that have no clue what they’re doing, but they’re smart. The humor comes from the awkward situations that arise during the bank heist, but not because everything goes wrong. Sometimes just weird things happen, like a dye pack going off at an unexpected time that gives the entire audience a huge laugh.
When best friends fight and one admits to telling everybody about the other guys mom sleeping with a lifeguard – which ultimately caused their divorce – he responds with “I was 13! You can’t give a kid information like that. I didn’t know how to properly process that. I thought it was cool that your mom slept with a lifeguard.”
At only 83 minutes long…this movie delivered. It gets 4 out of 5 stars.