Xenon Entertainment Group // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 15th, 2010
Keep trying Rob...you can do it!
It's tough being the cameo punchline in a famous friend's comedy oeuvre. It's even worse when you, at one time, were being positioned for such future funny man stardom. But as is the case with most one note SNL alum, "copy boy" Rob Schneider finds himself, in 2010, at a creative crossroads. No longer headlining head-scratching high concept titles like The Animal and The Hot Chick (Derp!), the now considered character actor seems perfectly happy to contribute, collect his paycheck, and wait for the next Adam Sandler special to show up at his agent's doorstep. But he still holds out hope of reviving his own above the marquee fortunes.
In 2008 he made his directorial debut with the direct to DVD prison laugher Big Stan. Two years -- and a featured part in Sandler's Grown Ups later, he's back behind the lens creating a dramedy about spiritual awakening and suspect racial stereotyping entitled The Chosen One. Focusing on a down on his luck car salesman who becomes the messiah for a small South American province, it sounds like another over the top farce. But more times than not, Schneider plays it straight here -- and that will make his longtime supporters, and those who are still new to his nonsense, more than a little perturbed.
Just as he's about to end it all (wife has left him, job sucks), hard drinking Paul (Schneider) is visited by the members of a small village in the remotest part of South America. Seems they believe he The Chosen One, destined to save their Iguaçu mountain tribe. Of course, he doesn't believe in such prophetic poppycock, but with the help of an attractive translator (Carolina Gomez, 1989), he starts to have faith in his argued destiny. Naturally, his aging mother (Holland Taylor, Baby Mama) and monk brother (Steve Buscemi, The Big Lebowski) think he's crazy. But Paul suffers from surreal dreams that seem to suggest something bigger for his life, and there's always the mystery surrounding his late father to factor in as well.
As labors of love go, The Chosen One is not so backbreaking -- at least, not for the audience. With its lo-fi, character driven tendencies and spot the famous face list of guest shots, it's a genial, praise-worthy attempt. Schneider, who directs and co-wrote the script, is clearly trying for something different here -- darker, more serious, less slapstick and stupid. Sure, we've seen hundreds of films that focus on flawed individuals struggling for redemption. But since it's Schneider going through the trials and tribulations, it changes things a bit. We expect some laughs -- and there are a few -- but for the most part, we don't expect major acting chops. Even in moments of less than meaningful insight, Schneider the performer delivers. He's real and clearly unhappy, interacting expertly with his far more competent co-stars.
All of which makes most of The Chosen One workable -- keyword being "mos.t" There are elements here that just don't gel. Schneider clearly didn't have a lot of cash for locations and F/X. Most of the story takes place in a single set-up (Paul's home) and revolves around conversations and a couple of flashbacks. When we do get to a "money" moment, the cheap realization of same truly shows. There will be a few who think the ethnic aspect of the narrative is a bit too broad (it does border on the offensive on occasion) and this is not a full-fledged comedy, no matter what the advertising materials might suggest. Instead, this is one former comic trying to reestablish himself as something more than a clown. On average, The Chosen One achieves said goal. Whether or not Schneider's fanbase will accept such a stunt is a matter of expectations -- and eventual entertainment.
The DVD from Xenon Pictures is pretty good. While there are no bonus features (BOO!), there is a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image and a pair of polished audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0). Unlike most movies made on the fly, The Chosen One comes across as well made and professional. There is a flat look to the filmmaking, but it's no different that dozens of other titles to come out of the Tinseltown movie machine each year. Those used to seeing the comedian in big budget Hollywood fare may fault the budgetary restraints on display, but overall, this is a well meaning, decently crafted offering. It's difficult to fault someone for trying, and heaven knows Rob Schneider could use a little luck. The Chosen One may not be 100% successful, but it doesn't 100% flop either. Genial and genuine, it sits somewhere slightly above the middle.
Not guilty...but not great, either.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Xenon Entertainment Group
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Rob Schneider