Are You Here
Film Review by Kam Williams
Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis Return to Roots in Irreverent Buddy Comedy
Sometimes you can appreciate what a movie might have been shooting for, even though the final cut falls far short of the mark. Such is the case with Are You Here, a cringe-inducing buddy comedy co-starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis.
The movie marks the eagerly-anticipated directorial debut of nine-time, Emmy-winner Matthew Weiner who fails in his first attempt to find the same magic which served him so well writing scripts for both Mad Men and The Sopranos. Unfortunately, something ostensibly got lost in the translation from TV to the big screen, as this picture proves to be an annoying test of patience.
The problem probably emanates from the ill-advised pairing of the wry Wilson and goofy Galifianakis, whose personas mix about as well as oil and water. Sorry, Weiner doesn’t get any extra credit for effort for crafting an ambitious adventure that bites off more than it could chew cinematically, since all that matters to an audience is execution.
And while Are You Here revolves around an intriguing enough premise and features plenty of surprising twists, the comedy portion of the production simply flunks the “Make me laugh” test. At the point of departure, we’re introduced to roommates/BFFs Ben Baker (Galifianakis) and Steve Dallas (Wilson). The former is an infantile eccentric incapable of functioning in society, while the latter is a stoner and popular TV weatherman for a local network.
When Ben’s dad dies, the two decide to drive the thousand miles back to their idyllic hometown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the recently deceased has left behind property worth millions of dollars. Also showing up for the funeral is Ben’s only sibling, Terry (Amy Poehler), a greedy shrew who clearly expects to inherit half of her father’s estate.
At the reading of the will, however, she learns that the old man only left her $350,000, and cut his trophy second-wife, Angela (Laura Ramsey), out of the will entirely, with the bulk of his cash plus a grocery store and 144-acre farm going to Ben. But her brother’s so dysfunctional, there’s no way he’d ever be able to manage the family businesses, given such bizarre behavior as visiting their Amish neighbors in his birthday suit.
Based on the scenario I’ve just described, one would naturally expect the tension to build around a fight over the inheritance. However, writer/director Weiner earns high marks for creativity in that regard, as he’s fashioned a novel plot that’s hard to predict.
Rather than spoil any of the subsequent developments, suffice to say that its unique storyline can’t save a picture that breaks a cardinal rule of comedy by failing to be funny.
Have Wilson, Galifianakis and Poehler ever been better? Gosh, I certainly hope so.
Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Millennium Entertainment