Movie Review: “Are You Here?”

2half-star6here“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner takes his act to the big screen with “Are
You Here?” which turns out to be the most quotable Owen Wilson comedy since
“Zoolander.”

It’s a bit all over the place, a stoner comedy with heart, a glib mental
illness riff, a light romance with bite and a too-conventional spoof of small
market TV news.

There’s where Steve Dallas (Wilson, named for a “Bloom County” character?)
glides by as the weather anchor. He shows up on set at the last minute, stoned
half the time, but “smooth as silk” on the air.

His boss (Paul Schulze) disabuses Steve of any notion of moving to a bigger
market, “not with that nose.” And Steve acts like it, burning through pot as if
it was legal, running the same spiel on an endless succession of women.

“Honestly, I wake up happy. I’m THAT guy!”

Then, there’s Ben, his lifelong pal — a plainly unstable stoner he visits in
Ben’s ruin of a rural trailer. Ben is paranoid, neurotic and a bearded
man-child. So naturally he’s played by Zach Galifianakis.

Steve has to drive Ben to Ben’s father’s funeral, stopping for a joint, and
to allow Ben to rescue a baitshop-load of crayfish.

“They mate for life, you know.”

Late for the funeral, awkward with Ben’s sister Terri (Amy Poehler) at the
after-burial lunch at Outback, at least Steve is impressed with vegetarian Ben’s
blooming onion.

“Deep-fried onions, dipped in Ranch? Bet it tastes like…SPRING-time!”

It’s after the funeral that bonkers Ben and testy Terri set off sparks. Their
dad was a success in his corner of Pennsylvania Amish country. Terri, bitterly
trying to get pregnant, gets a lot of cash, but Ben is entrusted with the family
store and farm. Terri hates that, and she hates dad’s calm, earthy and beautiful
young widow, Angelina (Laura Ramsey). Terri is sure Ben will squander his
inheritance, and she’s pretty sure the righteous hippy Angelina is up to no
good.

Steve? He just notices how gorgeous and open-hearted the now-available widow
is. Not that she’s having him.

“Maybe you’d better run along and get high so at least one of us can forget
we had this conversation.”

Weiner didn’t so much create characters as “types” here, and then cast actors
who have mastered those types. Still, he makes up for that with delightfully
witty dialogue, much of it delivered in that off-hand way Wilson has.

Steve corrects Ben as his unstable friend announces grandiose
Amish-influenced plans for a post “Banana Republic” commune for the farm, and
that he’s “stressed.”

“I’M stressed, you’re CRAZY. Let’s use the word freely, as if it gives us
power.”

Some comedies come out in August because they just aren’t funny enough (see
“Let’s Be Cops”) to find an audience in the heart of summer. “Are You Here?”, from
its nothing of a title to its wayward length and broad embrace of ideas and
themes, seems to warrant August release simply because who could figure out how
to market it?

It’s smarter than your average Wilson farce and sweetly deviates from the
formula that made Galifianakis famous. But like “Sopranos” creator David Chase’s
trip to the big screen, “Not Fade Away,” Weiner’s “Are You Here” has good scenes
and clever dialogue, but is over-stuffed with a TV season’s quota of
not-that-original ideas.

MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and some sexual content/nudity

Cast: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, Laura Ramsey

Credits: Written and directed by Matthew Weiner. A Millennium release.

Running time: 1:52

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