Judge Dan Mancini keeps hoping he'll have one more growth spurt.
They've got their whole past in front of them.
Minus the culture-altering trauma of a large-scale armed conflict like World War II or Vietnam, and with many people delaying marriage and children until their mid- to late-thirties, the 21st-century American male (of both the Generation X and Millennial varieties) has become a stunted man-child who spends his days wallowing in action movies, pop music, comic books (er, graphic novels), next-gen video games, and Internet message boards. The rise of the multi-decade adolescence has produced an entire comic subgenre of movies about middle-aged men trying to figure out how to stop being boys and become, well, men. Good entries in the subgenre, like Stephen Frears' High Fidelity, Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or Kevin Smith's Clerks II, deliver big laughs while tapping truthfully into as well as critiquing the current zeitgeist. Poor entries, like Failure to Launch or Employee of the Month, are themselves so hopelessly adolescent that they make you want savagely beat every character involved.
Writer-director David Munro's Full Grown Men is neither good nor bad. It's strictly middle-of-the-road. The movie follows the pathetic adventures of action figure-collecting thirtysomething Alby Cutrera (Matt McGrath, Boys Don't Cry). After being kicked out of his house by his exasperated wife, Alby moves back home with his mother, and then tries to reconnect with childhood friend Elias Guber (Judah Friedlander, American Splendor). Elias, a special education teacher who has managed to successfully transition into adulthood, has little interest in Alby's nostalgia-fueled shenanigans, but allows his old friend to impose on his vacation to Diggityland theme park. During the ensuing road trip, the duo meets an eccentric cast of characters including a bartender/clown school student (Amy Sedaris, Elf), an aging performer in a mermaid show (Deborah Harry, Hairspray), and a peculiar and volatile hitchhiker (Alan Cumming, GoldenEye). When Alby and Elias have a falling out over Alby's jealous possession of a pristine 1968 Action Jackson doll (with beard), Alby realizes that his idealized memories of childhood gloss over the cold, hard truth that he was mostly a dick to his best friend. Shaken by the epiphany, can Alby find it within himself to grow up and return to his wife and young son?
The problem with Full Grown Men is its main character. Alby isn't so much a man-boy as a flat-out boy. He's so obnoxiously self-centered that he resembles either an 8-year-old or someone with a serious mental illness, not a garden variety action figure-collecting geek. Matt McGrath plays the character with such wide-eyed, goofball obliviousness that even the idea that this juvenile asshat managed to convince an adult woman to marry him stretches credibility to the breaking point. Meanwhile, Judah Friedlander is superb in a surprisingly dramatic turn. Though the screenplay often relegates him to playing straight man to Alby, Elias proves textured and complex. He is believably geeky and easy to like, a sad-sack single whose deep connection to the developmentally disabled children he teaches has won him a teaching award (to be collected at Diggityland) and given his life a sense of real (and adult) purpose that contrasts sharply with Alby's pipe dream of being a professional cartoonist. Watching Full Grown Men, it is difficult not to become frustrated that the movie is about Alby and not Elias. Despite a structurally sound script and interesting cameos by Amy Sedaris, Alan Cumming, and Deborah Harry, the flick is unable to recover from the fact that its most compelling character is relegated to second banana status.
Even at a slim 78 minutes, Full Grown Men feels too long. Its sluggishness arises from its heavy use of well-worn road trip conventions that have been done better elsewhere, as well as comic vignettes that are never as biting and funny as intended. The Las Vegas road trip section of Knocked Up touches upon all of the themes explored in Full Grown Men, but does so with more energy, bigger laughs, and characters with whom it is easy to empathize. By contrast, Full Grown Men feels undercooked, the first draft of what might have turned into a solid entry in the genre had its comedy and characters been more precisely honed.
For a low-budget indie, Full Grown Men looks quite good on DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer delivers a clean and bright image with vivid colors and great detail. Audio is offered in Dolby 5.1 and stereo mixes. Both are clean and pleasant.
Extras include a feature-length audio commentary by Munro, a brief making-of featurette, bonus footage, and a trailer.
In the final analysis, Full Grown Men offers one strong performance (Friedlander's) surrounded by a lot of mediocrity. It's not a terrible movie, just disappointing.
Guilty as charged.
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