Magnolia Pictures // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 23rd, 2010
"Who says their babies name during sex?"
"She wants to train your baby to use a cat box! Can you imagine?"
Barry Munday (Patrick Wilson, Hard Candy) is a wannabe ladies man, and though he's had some success wooing the fairer sex, he's had just as many knock backs. But when there is a misunderstanding over his involvement with a minor, Barry finds himself in hospital -- minus his testicles.
Traumatized at the loss of his family jewels, Barry sees no reason to live; until Ginger Farley -- a woman Barry has no recollection of -- claims he is the father of her unborn child. Rather than dispute the claims, Barry instead embraces the prospect of fatherhood; he suddenly realizes that, without a child to bear his name, he is the last of his line. Perhaps even more surprising to Barry is his growing affection towards Ginger. Though Ginger rarely speaks to Barry other than to throw icy barbs at him, the two come to appreciate they share a chemistry, and slowly begin to build a life together while they await the birth of their baby.
Here's a novelty: a rom-com aimed primarily towards men, and yet is equally enjoyable for any watching womenfolk. Barry Munday is a film that, at heart, deals with that awkward transition most (if not all) men must go through as they leave behind the single life for something more purposeful. Thankfully most men can make this transition without having had their testicles removed thanks to an overprotective father wielding a wind instrument.
Though leisurely paced, and lacking many real laugh-out-loud moments, Barry Munday slowly wins over its audience and ultimately succeeds by way of its good nature. Never guilty of overdoing the schmaltz, Chris D'Arienzo litters his screenplay with small moments that are sure to warm all but the coldest of hearts. As Barry comes to terms with the loss of his testes, he begins to reevaluate his life and -- upon realizing he lacks direction and friends -- comes to see Ginger and her unborn child as his salvation. Barry's softening, and his increasing affection towards Ginger is, well, sweet, and these two initially unsympathetic characters become more appealing as the film progresses. You'd never guess it at the beginning, but by the third act you'll really be rooting for Barry and Ginger.
No small part of the film's success is down to its two leads, Patrick Wilson and an almost unrecognizable Judy Greer. Wilson, who I'll readily admit to only becoming familiar with since his role in Watchmen, makes for a likeable lead. Here Wilson once again shows a deft touch for comedy, and as his character softens, genuinely draws a response from the audience who come to empathize with a man who was -- prior to his dismemberment -- a letch. Greer, perhaps better known for supporting roles in Elizabethtown and 13 Going on 30, takes what I consider a brave step in playing the dorky looking, and initially abrasive, Ginger. While it's not uncommon for well known actresses to drop the glamour all together for a role that proves their acting chops (think Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich or Charlize Theron in Monster), it takes something more for someone on the lower rung of the ladder to make that same decision. Let's be honest: Hollywood likes a pretty face, and for Greer to cover her natural beauty behind an awful perm and geeky glasses is a risk. Thankfully it's a risk that pays off big time, and Greer delivers a performance that gradually strips back the harsh edges of Ginger to reveal a fragile, kind, and even memorable character.
The support cast is blessed with a succession of recognizable faces, each able to breathe life into their often small roles, and grant the film a little more depth. Malcolm McDowell (If...), Cybill Shepherd (Taxi Driver and Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back lead the way, while the likes of Colin Hanks, Jean Smart and Shea Whigham provide ample backup. Perhaps the best of these cameos is the appearance of Christopher McDonald (Requiem for a Dream) and Kyle Gass (Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny) as members of a group for sufferers of genital mutilation. Undoubtedly the comedic highlight of the film, and full of humor you know you really shouldn't laugh at but can't help yourself, the scene offers a welcome contrast to what is otherwise an emotionally driven third act.
First time director Chris D'Arienzo, working from his own screenplay (an adaptation of the novel Life is a Strange Place), delivers a film that is tonally similar to the work of Jared Hess, most notably Napoleon Dynamite; a comparison that is only strengthened by similarities in Hess and D'Arienzo's visual style and cast of oddballs. It is important to stress, however, that Barry Munday is a far more likeable film, and relies less on its character's quirks than it does its storyline to entertain.
Barry Munday arrives on DVD with a perfectly acceptable, if slightly dull, transfer that is serviceable rather than exceptional. There's a decent level of detail, with a sharpness throughout, though colors are less than vibrant. The audio is a similar story. It's hard to fault, but never does anything to really make you pay any notice to it. The extras included kick off with an audio commentary, courtesy of director Chris D'Arienzo and his two leads. The track is both informative and fun, with the three taking every opportunity to share a joke. A selection of deleted scenes and a gag reel are next up, with a HDNet promo for the film and the "Manhood and You" documentary rounding out the set.
Much of the film hangs around Barry's inability to recall his night of passion with Ginger. So much so, that the validity of Ginger's claims are never far from your thoughts. During the film's second act, the movie throws something of a curveball at the viewer regarding Barry's paternity that, ultimately, feels a little cheap as it never plays out in any meaningful way. It alters the viewers perception of Ginger, for a while at least, and as such adds an unnecessary element to the story.
I was a little skeptical about Barry Munday to begin with -- the short duration between its theatrical and home video release being a primary cause of concern -- but I needn't have worried. This is a movie whose theatrical failure is a direct result of the film industry's fear of promoting something a little different. Give it a go; you won't be disappointed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site