A tepid attempt to graft agoraphobia onto the weary “indie filmmaker trying to get a second film made” comedy, “Welcome Matt” neither delivers laughs nor insights to an illness a lot of people think about as a pandemic winds down.
The jokes are gassed, the characters bland and the unanswered question that hangs over it, first scene to last, is “Who cares?”
We meet Matthew Hillard (Tahj Mowry) as he’s shooting on the beach in LA, a comedy hilariously-titled “Life’s a Beach,” which one day will be finished and referred to as “‘Clerks’ on the beach.”
Problem one, scene one, first page of dialogue. Nothing remotely cute, funny or even interesting happens in the “film within a film.” Not a promising start.
But damned if the film school dreamer didn’t get that feature made, get a little famous, and wind up shut in, refusing to leave his apartment, trying to summon up a follow-up film and give the illusion everything’s fine on his social media when nothing is.
Why? We just know the reason will be a killer. Eventually.
Matt’s girlfriend (Adriyan Rae) is over it, and her need to go out gives away that she’s cheating on him.
His film school buddy, first-film producer pal (Aaron Grady) is ready to cook up “Life’s a Beach II.” Matt’s not having it.
“You ever seen ‘Clerks II?'”
“I don’t think ANYbody’s seen ‘Clerks II.'”
“My point exactly.”
Bringing him hookers doesn’t help. Yeah, it’s that kind of lame, with broad takes on an audition that turns out to be with a psychotic actor, an “intruder” (Deon Cole) who turns out to be a stoner washed-up stand-up who wants to “co-write” a film with him, and so it goes.
Everybody in town knows who he is, everybody wants a piece of that, nobody cares about his “problem.”
Of course his Facetiming Mom (Jazsmin Lewis) signs him up for in-home therapy sessions with a weeper of a counselor (GG Townson).
As the comic attempts “tough love,” as the producer “leaks” the sequel to the press, as the manipulative ex tries to finagle her way into “Life’s a Beach II,” as the therapist says “I think we’re making progress,” we drift towards The Big Revelation.
No nice way to put this, but “Welcome Matt” is cinematically still-born, “comedy” that barely fits the broadest definition of the word. It clumsily mishandles the “serious” stuff — relationships, “get some help,” etc. — so badly that therapist Lisa isn’t the only one almost moved to tears.
Scenes die of oxygen starvation, characters behave like script archetypes with no visible signs of life, and Matt isn’t the only one eye-rolling his way through this. The selection of photos from this online suggest that this was trimmed rather severely, to which I can only whisper “Thank God.”
A comic co-writer is rarely a bad idea. And in this case, maybe a little more research than googling “agoraphobia” was in order.
MPA Rating: unrated, profanity
Cast: Tahj Mowry, Deon Cole, Adriyan Rae, Aaron Grady, Malik S, GG Townson
Credits: Scripted and directed by Leon Pierce Jr. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:32