I think I know what the pitch was for this movie: “It’s like Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show but without Christopher Guest’s company and with butter!” If that sounds good to you, well, you’ll still be disappointed.
Though I laughed a number of times, as there are some good lines, and though I thought aspects of the movie worked well, this is a mess of a film. Here are some problems:
- Jennifer Garner’s character is totally unlikable. In order to get these sorts of things to succeed, the least likable character in the film should still be likable but Garner’s character is more of a caricature than it is an actual character. She is what Liberal Hollywood thinks a Butter Champion’s wife would be like, not a real person.
- And the dynamic of the hero-villain thing also is not something that works about this movie; if this is a straight-up comedy or drama, I get having a hero and a villain but you can’t have a cute kid versus an unlikable conservative soccer mom caricature as the main character dynamic of a satire. It just doesn’t work.
- I don’t know whether the film got chopped up and re-shot and re-cut or the script just sucked but there are three instances where it feels like they added exposition after the fact because the film was too confusing without it:
- Destiny’s brief narrations – though in and of itself, this would have been fine.
- Hugh Jackman’s character talks to god in order to explain things to the audience.
- The invisible “Iowa State Fair” commentators (is that a thing that would actually exist?) are the most transparent example of this, and it feels like they were added in post.
- The brief lesbian daughter sub-plot feels like a gratuitous attempt at titillation in a movie that drops its sex comedy otherwise very, very early on.
Those are just some examples of shit that didn’t work. This is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be or, rather, it wants to be too many things: satire of Middle America, feelgood comedy about a kid settling into her new home, a not very raunchy sex comedy set in Middle America, etc.
Here are a few positives:
- The kid is good
- The kid’s parents (Corddry and Silverstone) are good
- There were definitely a few really good lines.
But the bad absolutely outweighs the good here. I’m giving it 5/10 only because I laughed at some jokes and some of the jokes were genuinely really good. But this is a mess.