30 Minutes or Less (2011)
by Steve Habrat
It has become a custom for Hollywood to sneak a star-studded comedy into theaters during the last days of the summer movie season. It aims to lure in the remaining college and senior high school crowds who are looking to waste one of their last evenings of the summer. I will be the first to admit that I have started looking forward to these films, which include strokes of comedic brilliance like The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Funny People, Tropic Thunder, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. Each of these films is rambunctious in their own right and offered a much-needed break from the countless waves of CGI fakery. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good comedy to lighten the mood? This summer, we have Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes or Less and it seems that the comedic spell that blesses all the said films above did not cast a spell on this star studded heist comedy. In fact, 30 Minutes or Less isn’t blessed with much at all. It’s just consistently repulsive and foul mouthed. To make matters worse, it squanders all the talent that is attached to it every step of the way. I kept getting the impression that the film was a hell of a lot of fun to make but sadly, we the audience aren’t allowed in on the action.
Perhaps it was the concept itself, which revolves around a loser pizza delivery guy named Nick (Played by the always welcome Jesse Eisenberg) who apparently enjoys getting high and slinging pizza for a living. He works for Vito’s Pizza, who guarantees you get your pie in thirty minutes or less. Nick shacks up with Chet (Played by the always welcome Aziz Ansari), a dorky grade school teacher who finds joy in online dating and playing Call of Duty. One evening after a spat between the nebbish best friends, Nick finds himself abducted by the loudmouthed Dwayne (Played by the deadpan Danny McBride) and his clueless partner in crime Travis (Played by the childlike oaf Nick Swardson). They strap a bomb to Nick and demand that he rob a bank. Dwayne and Travis need a hundred grand so they can pay a Mexican hit man to knock off Dwayne’s wealthy father and run off with the inheritance. Naturally, chaos ensues and we are bombarded for eighty-three minutes with one moldy joke after another.
30 Minutes or Less is a brief film and it benefits from refusing to let the nonsensical events drag out for longer than they have to. The irony to all of this is that the film is entirely too long and it could be executed in, well, thirty minutes or less. There is drawn out bickering that disguises itself as character development yet we could care less about any specific character. It forces in a frail love story and you would honestly forget it was even there if the film didn’t constantly keep reminding you about it. The film also crams in a bizarre side story for the senseless Mexican hit man with a lisp. He seems there just so the film will be over eighty minutes and get a theatrical run. McBride, who is usually welcome comic relief, spews stale and raunchy adlibs as if they are outtakes from his hit show Eastbound & Down. Eisenberg, Ansari, and Swardson all flail around in front of the camera desperately attempting to land a joke that works but nothing really stands out from any of them. It’s a disgrace, really, as all are quite talented. They are forced to try to top one another every step of the way. What makes the film an even bigger disappointment is that director Fleischer, who made the goofily self-aware Zombieland, demonstrates none of the wit he brandished with his previous film. It’s just piercing and irritate.
To give you an example of this movie going experience, when the film quieted down for a few seconds (trust me, it’s rare in this one), you could actually hear one audience member sawing logs. It had me checking the time to see how much longer I needed to sit through it. It only managed to draw a few remote laughs from the audience members that remained, as I saw at least two groups of people (apparently families) head for the exit early on. At least it had the sixteen year olds sitting next to me doubled over in laughter, because it barely drew a chuckle from me. Their eyes also almost popped out of their eye sockets at the gratuitous nudity the film offers at one point.
All in all, the film is unremarkable. It’s not flat out unpleasant like The Hangover Part II but it’s certainly an underachiever similarly to its main protagonist. I just sat wishing I could re-watch McBride in Pineapple Express, or Eisenberg in Zombieland, or Ansari in episodes of Parks & Recreation, or Swardson in Grandma’s Boy. The film doesn’t even attempt to be sweet natured in its more subdued moments, as that is what made those other later summer comedies go down easier. I have the sneaking suspicion that when 30 Minutes or Less departs from theaters, many will never remember it even existed. It’s a comedic misfire. Grade: D+
Posted on August 15, 2011, in REViEW and tagged 2011, 30 minutes or less, aziz ansari, danny macbride, eastbound & down, funny people, grandma's boy, jesse eisenberg, nick swardson, parks & recreation, pineapple express, ruben fleischer, superbad, the 40 year-old virgin, tropic thunder, zombieland. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.