Barry Munday (2010)

I’m back from vacation. So, back to reviewing stuff. The Internet ate this review last week, so the second half will be written from memory.

Barry Munday exists somewhere between Knocked Up and Office Space. This new indie comedy which isn’t in theaters yet, but played for one night on HDTV Movies last Wednesday, probably won’t have a big theatrical run, but should do okay on cable.
Patrick Wilson (Night Owl from Watchmen) plays Barry Munday, a clueless office drone who’s idea of female interaction is staring at their chest and pretending to be an architect to get them in the sack. Look at the picture below, it’s the kind of comedy where the facial hair says a lot about the character. His best friend has a porn mustache, big sideburns and enters air guitar contests. That sums him up.
In the first ten minutes, Barry literally loses his balls. At the wrong end of trumpet in a movie theater. As in almost all ball mangling incidents, Barry begins to re-examines his life. Shortly after, he gets a letter from a lawyer demanding child support from newly pregnant Ginger Farley (The always good Judy Greer) after a one night stand Barry doesn’t even remember.

Since Barry’s boys no longer swim, this is his last shot at immortality. He decides to go for it and take responsibility. So, yea, Knocked Up. The problem is Ginger. Ginger is a classic Judy Greer character, the barely hidden angry and overlooked sister. It’s nice to see Greer promoted from what is generally a secondary character in other movies to the lead role. Barry would also be a secondary character in other movies, because he’s too much of a loser for most films. He’s the guy even the uncool, regular characters in an Apatow movie bag on for being such a clueless douche. And to the film’s credit, the film goes out of it’s way to not only show Barry as not only flawed and kind of dumb, but then to show him trying hard to grow up. Most dumb guys try real hard. He has a classic, generic arc.

Ginger berates him for ninety percent of the film and he takes it until she sort of wears out and gives in. Greer’s great at taking very unlikable stock female characters and giving them some empathy and depth. She’s the highlight of the film. (Why isn’t she a bigger star?)
The secondary characters all fill their roles aptly with some against-type casting of Malcolm McDowell and Billy Dee Williams. Jean Smart and Cybil Shepard play the main characters’ moms with Smart standing out as Barry’s over protective hippie mom. She’s making a nice secondary career of playing flakes. And while Chloe Sevigny certainly is sexy (especially compared to recent roles) as Ginger’s beloved and sexy sister, they really don’t resolve her plot or give her much to do. I bet some giant chunks were left on the cutting room floor. The secondary characters are not drawn particularly deep, but serve as stock foils to bring Barry and Ginger together. It’s all very standard stuff in the broad strokes. Wilson and Greer’s characters are given enough small touches to smooth over the more predictable sub-plots. And by the end of the film, they’re really the only two you’re suppose to care about.

The movie does have two complete dud sub-plots—Barry’s crazy ex-girlfriend (can there be a comedy where the ex isn’t crazy?) and Barry’s intervention visit to a genital mutilation group, maybe it sounded funny on paper, but was completely out of place in the movie, not only coming at the wrong time, but stopping the narrative dead.

I did like how the film went further than what would be the natural stopping point than most similar rom coms (The birth of the baby). The happy ever after took some more time coming and undercuts the popular notion that a baby solves everything and instantly makes weak people strong.
Overall, the movie seems to say that we may not choose our own fate, but we certainly can grow to love and appreciate what fate offers. We make the best of what we’re dealt. That’s a nice sentiment over other rom-coms that loudly declare that love is a pre-ordained destiny.

Barry Munday isn’t a great movie—it’s time-worn plot is nothing new, but there’s plenty of small touches to make the soft comedy a pleasant enough diversion.

Fold some laundry and enjoy.

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