Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) takes a stab at writing and directing with Dealin’ With Idiots. Garlin plays Max, a comedian who describes himself as one of the top twenty best comedians working today. However, we never see any of Max’s stand-up, as the film focuses more on Max going to his son’s little league games and getting to know the other parents with the intention of maybe making a comedic movie about little league parents.
The film is in the vein of a lot of other Hollywood comedies poking fun at Midwest values, which is fine as long as it’s funny, but unfortunately Dealin’ With Idiots tries to create humor from boiling characters down to Midwest stereotypes. Whether it’s a character who’s way too obsessed with kids’ baseball, or a character who likes to pretend he’s rich and famous, or a character who has an Everybody Loves Raymond-esque relationship with his passive aggressive wife, all of your favorite Midwestern archetypes are here. Not to say that all of the characterization is without merit. Gina Gershon and Kerri Kenney (Reno 911) play a lesbian couple with very different views on parenting their adopted son. It’s interesting to see them go back and forth about how Gershon’s character wants him to grow up gay because gay men take care of their mothers. It creates an interesting dynamic to their relationship, and yet it’s clear why they’re a couple to begin with even though they have such different personalities.
I did enjoy Garlin’s performance as the only sane person in this group of “idiots”. He has a good comedic style that I’ve come to appreciate in other projects he’s worked on, and while he is clearly looking down on everyone else in the movie, there is a sincerity in his wanting to get to know each of them better as research for the movie he’s thinking of writing.
The best thing about the film is also the worst thing. Like so many comedies before it, it’s clear that if Dealin’ With Idiots had a script, the actors were encouraged to improvise and make up variations on lines. This can be very effective as long as the cast is up to the challenge, but here, there are definitely cast members who are more talented at improvisation than others. Garlin is great, Fred Willard does a very good job, and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad) is fantastic. Odenkirk’s scene where he’s working at his day job feels like it was completely made up on the spot, but with a naturalism that a lot of the other improv in the film lacks.
I will also say that I found the film completely impossible to predict. I didn’t see the final scene coming at all, and actually found it to be a very satisfying ending to the film.
The only special feature here is the trailer for the film. Available on DVD from IFC Films on November 12.