The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest Movie Review

It's the middle of the dot-com mega boom. Two bright-eyed twenty-somethings drive luxury sports cars down the Silicon Valley freeways, chatting on cell phones about money and meetings. Here's the gag: they're actually in adjacent cars and arrive to work at the same place. Unfortunately, this is some of the stronger and more coherent humor in this lifeless attempt at a big business comedy.

Jon Favreau claims partial responsibility (as co-screenwriter) for this stumbling mess, a film that could've used dark humor and the luxury of retrospect to comment on the freakish habits of our late 1990s Internet culture. (The script, in theory at least, is based on Po Bronson's novel.) Instead, Favreau, screenwriter Gary Tieche (creator of TV's MDs), and director Mick Jackson (L.A. Story) play it as safe, as slow, and as vanilla as possible.

Andy (the laughably bad Adam Garcia) longs to leave the goofball world of IPO marketing and "make a difference" like his father. He ends up at the La Honda Institute, an MIT-type think tank, where aggressive teams of scientists and analysts conjure up the next big thing. Instead of landing on the revered Team Titan, Andy is set aside by an omnipresent, Napoleonic leader (Enrico Colantoni, Galaxy Quest) who gives the young idealistic lad an objective: create a $99 home computer.

Of course, the prerequisite geeks, social misfits, and over-testosteroned geniuses surface, as Andy puts together a small band of life's rejects (Ethan Suplee, Anjul Nigam, Jake Busey, and Jake Busey's teeth) to work on the ill-fated project.

While Jackson tries to catch the spark of innocence from '80s movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Real Genius, he's way off target. Only 20 years after that era, today's audiences (yes, kids too), are more sophisticated and require a bit more smart energy in their comedy. So when the same jokes hit over and over again - the shy fat guy does, you know, shy fat guy things - it will land flat for most. It doesn't help when the humor is poorly timed, unsure and sparse.

Blame that infrequency on an unlikely romance between Andy and an artistic neighbor (Rosario Dawson, Sidewalks of New York) that gets squished into the proceedings. When the couple is together, the script drops all laughs for horrible relationship dialogue, making one long for the punch of, say, Just One of the Guys.

Most problematic in this whole affair is lead actor Garcia. His 1980s' Scott Baio hair, false confidence and awkward line delivery just put him farther away from the better Dawson in their scenes together. He's neither funny nor charming and, for better or worse, this movie doesn't rely on much else.

Jackson wants us to feel light and uplifted at Andy's willingness to throw it all away to chase his dreams and succeed against all odds. While the movie does have its occasional innocent charms, that motive generally gets you all teary-eyed if you're ten. For the rest of us, it comes down to an acronym used in the film: WOMBAT...waste of money, brains and time.

And where's Fisher Stevens when you need him!?


Comments

The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2002

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