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Joe Somebody (January 6/02)

John Pasquin's Joe Somebody often forgets that it's supposed to be a comedy. Much of the running time is devoted to dramatic subplots and other such misguided attempts at pathos. But this is a Tim Allen movie, from the same man who directed Jungle 2 Jungle and The Santa Clause (in fact, that's all he's directed).

Allen stars as Joe Sheffer, a hard working schlub who's underappreciated by everyone in his life; his various bosses, his ex-wife - pretty much anyone he comes into contact with. He's sort of like Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham in American Beauty - a regular joe who's good at his job but never asserts himself or stands out in any way, which makes him instantly forgettable. His life changes, though, on Take Your Kid To Work Day when the office bully bitch-slaps him in front of his daughter. While Joe is initially content to hole himself away in his house, becoming unshaven and unkempt, he soon decides that the one thing that will make him feel better is revenge. He enlists the services of a has-been action star - the sort of person we imagine Jeff Speakman has become. With his assistance, Joe gains enough self-confidence to challenge the bully to a rematch - and in the process, gain the respect of his peers and the love of a beautiful co-worker (Julie Bowen).

Joe Somebody is odd in that it has all the elements required for a cheesy comedy, but repeatedly eschews laughs in favor of supposed heart-warming tactics. But this isn't the sort of movie where that's expected; in fact, it's about as welcome as a NARC at a biker rally. Some sequences are so poorly executed, they're bound to evoke squirming and sensations of discomfort among moviegoers. Take, for example, the scene in which Patrick Warburton's cruel bully assaults Allen's character in front of his daughter. That sequence is played so seriously that you'll think you've stumbled into the wrong theater. Maybe if the scene had ended with an over-the-top pratfall by Allen it wouldn't have seemed quite as awkward as it does now.

There are a few elements in Joe Somebody that work, with John Belushi's supporting role as the faded action star a definite high point, but this is mostly miss (as opposed to hit, of course).

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