Friday, December 19, 2014

'30 Minutes or Less': A test of audience endurance

About the movie
30 Minutes or Less
Genre:
Action, Adventure; Comedy
MPAA rating:
R
for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence
Running time:
01:23
Release date:
2011
Rating:
Cast:
Aziz Ansari; Danny McBride; Jesse Eisenberg; Bianca Kajlich; Fred Ward; Dilshad Vadsaria; Jordan Trovillion; Nick Swardson; Alex Rush; Michael Peña
Directed by:
Ruben Fleischer

There's a clever throwaway joke early on in 30 Minutes or Less, acknowledging Jesse Eisenberg's stature in the Hollywood universe. He plays a pizza delivery dude, a college dropout, and the girl he likes is talking about Facebook. "You know I don't do that," he responds. "I'm off the grid."

This from the guy who was nominated for a best-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, the whiz-kid founder of Facebook, in The Social Network.

That's about as smart as it gets in 30 Minutes or Less, an action comedy that appears to have been shot in a stoner haze - a canned, sliced-up Pineapple Express. Eisenberg is Nick, he delivers pies for Vito's Pizza in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he has a thing for his best friend's twin sister. This upsets his friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), who thinks Nick having sex with his twin is ickily close to having sex with him, so the two buds have a falling out.

But that lasts only long enough for another pair of best bros - a lowlife named Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his even dimmer sidekick, Travis (Nick Swardson) - to come up with a plot to get the pizza delivery kid to rob a bank for them. How? By strapping a time bomb to Nick's chest, and threatening to blow him up if he doesn't come back with at least $100,000. Why? Because it's less risky than doing the heist themselves, and anyway, they have bigger plans: They need the money to hire a hit man to kill Dwayne's dad. He's a lottery-winner millionaire, and a complete jerk, and Dwayne wants his inheritance before it's all gone. The exotic dancer he frequents, Juicy, gave him the idea.

With its careening, crash-and-burn car chases and unexpectedly dark turns, 30 Minutes or Less, directed by Ruben Fleischer, had the potential to achieve a kind of Coen Brothers-ish mix of the madcap and the menacing. But such lofty goals (if, indeed, anyone had them) are squandered by a surfeit of sloppy R-rated jokes and stupid-with-a-capital-S comedy. McBride is the poster boy for such fare, but his shtick is getting tired, even when he tosses around a word like euphemism. (He's explaining to his stripper gal pal what "polish my royal scepter" really means.)

Eisenberg (who starred in director Fleischer's far better Zombieland) does his usual Eisenbergian thing, more slacker and less hacker, but still hitting the same notes. And Ansari squawks and yelps, like a parrot with a grudge.

Dilshad Vadsaria is the perfectly pleasant twin, Kate, and Michael Peña seems to be having a good time as the killer-for-hire, Chango.

30 Minutes or Less takes its title from the promise of Nick's pizza company: If you don't get your order within the advertised time, the pie is free. The movie claims to be only 83 minutes long, but it's the longest 83 minutes to come along in quite awhile. Expect a few folks to ask for their money back.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

 

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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