This is the kind of movie during which one’s mind tends to wander. I suspect it would hightail it out of the theater, hop in the car and head for the city limits if it could, but, unfortunately for one’s mind, wander is the best it can do.
I found mine wandering to the recently released book Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, which I happen to be reading. It’s an extremely amusing collection of anecdotes about the comedian, and 30 Minutes or Less is a comedy that’s almost never amusing. But that’s not why my mind wandered to the book.
The reason is this: The book catalogs pranks Handler has played on her staff, family and friends. In a chapter written by comic cohort Heather McDonald, we learn that Handler once convinced members of her inner circle she’d been asked to star opposite Meryl Streep in a film based on the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
The most amazing part of this fabrication, recounts McDonald, wasn’t that Handler was supposedly going to play Streep’s daughter — to whom the deceased astronaut speaks from heaven — but that the project was conceived as a comedy. “Really? I just don’t see how they could make that funny,” McDonald responded, on hearing the premise.
In 2003, a Pennsylvania pizza delivery guy was strapped to a bomb, sent into a bank with orders to rob it and ultimately blown up by two psychos, who are now in prison. Somewhere along the line, Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriter Michael Diliberti were inspired to make a film based on this disaster. The plan was for Jesse Eisenberg to play the pizza guy, and, perhaps most confoundingly, the project was conceived as a comedy. Really? I thought when I read about this. I just don’t see how they could make that funny.
They didn’t. I’d like to think the whole thing was a Handler-esque prank that got out of control, but it appears producers and studio executives actually thought this was a good idea. Which surprises me less, naturally, than the fact that Eisenberg thought it was a good idea. This is more than simply a spectacularly bad career move. 30 Minutes or Less is literally the first bad movie the actor has headlined.
It’s all too moronic to merit more than passing comment. Danny McBride plays a slacker creep who hatches the bomb vest/bank heist scheme to get cash so he can pay a hit man to murder his ex-Marine, lotto-winning father (Fred Ward) before there aren’t any winnings left to inherit. He needs a patsy, so he dials the pie place where Eisenberg works.
Once he’s strapped into the vest and given a deadline for producing the loot, Eisenberg’s character does what anyone in his situation would do: He visits his on-again;,off-again girlfriend (Dilshad Vadsaria) and swaps raunchy repartee with his best friend (Aziz Ansari). What he does not do is inform the authorities, something he has countless opportunities to do.
To be fair, virtually all the characters in this movie are dumb or mean or both. I left wondering what Fleischer and Diliberti have against Grand Rapids, Mich., where the story is set. There’s very little that’s not slapdash, vulgar, predictable or derivative in 30 Minutes or Less. The upside is that that’s about how long it should take to forget you ever saw it.
* Running time: 83 min.
* Rated: R
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