What a tin-eared foot-fault of a comedy “40-Love” is.
Built around ineptly sketched-in characters not saved by the actors playing them, stumbling through scene after illogical and painfully-unfunny-but-meant-to-be-funny scenes, the number of actual laughs it produces you can count on one hand and the groans it generates will leave you hoarse.
But when you’ve cleverly titled your tennis romance “40-Love,” like other feature films and too many short films to count, it’s kind of all uphill from the start.
It’s about an “on the spectrum” 20something math nerd inexplicably named “Beek” (Jasjit Williams, sort of Josh Peck the Next Generation) who is sure that he has the formula “in my head,” the percentages and geometric angles, to turn a top tier Russian tennis star (Alena Savostikova) nicknamed “the Android of Destruction,” into someone who can beat her nemesis at the Big Tourney.
Fired from his burger-flipping job, conveniently inheriting cash from his similarly mathematical aunt, Beek will trek cross-country to New York where the “American Tennis Championships” are almost sure to feature his obsession, Lois Kuzenkova, against her nemesis “Lourdes” in the finals. He figures he can get close enough to coach Russian Lois to glory.
Yes, she’s Russian, and even before this year, the only Americans rooting for Russians were flirting with treason. No, the tennis tourney isn’t the U.S. Open because they couldn’t swing the rights to use that, and no, that’s not former champ Tracy Austin in the booth calling the match with some dope forced to tell 124 bad “Irish drunk” jokes. Kate Grimes does look like Tracy Austin, though.
That’s kind of how this born-also-ran of a movie was assembled. Director and co-writer Fred Wolf fills the edges of the story with a steady stream of obnoxious, foul-mouthed and ill-tempered characters for quirky Beek to bounce off of.
Tommy Flanagan plays the Russian’s insulting, threatening Russian dad, and yes, his Russian accent’s worse than yours.
There’s also Beek’s lazy jerk younger brother (Charlie Oh), a random ranter at an interstate rest area (who finishes off Beek’s car), the jerk waitress played by a relative (Daughter?) of the director, an unseen hotel room shouter, profane college professor, and on and on.
This running gag only pays off when Patrick Warburton plays the dentist Beek visits after chipping a tooth in that interstate rest area encounter.
“They say dentists have high suicide rates,” the tooth terrorist begins. “I’d have to see data on that.” Warburton’s plummy deadpan makes even creaky lines about pills, carbon monoxide and shotgun as life-ending choices amusing.
There’s also a riff-off delivered by security guards played by Colin Quinn and Steve Schirripa who bust the kid’s balls for driving a tow truck to the tourney, for not knowing anything about tow trucks and for looking like Tom Hanks (“‘Forrest f—-ng Gump’ here,” etc). That sounds improvised and is kind of funny.
But the bulk of the film is a contraption designed to put the obsessed math nerd in that tow truck, on the road, in hotel rooms and in New York with this waitress/aspiring painter (Katerina Tannenbaum) whose father wants to nerd to help him “give her a push” out of the dead-end small town where they live and where Beek breaks down, and into New York and Pace University.
The leads have middling banter — “I look at ‘Starry Night’ and see 2.5 by 3 feet of pure beauty. You look at it and want to rename it 7 square feet of paint!” And there’s little that you could call chemistry, which matters because whatever the math-head’s obsession and however his mission to “save” this Russian tennis automaton turns out, these two traveling companions are fated to be together.
But good luck to them in their future endeavors. And let’s hope this is their last work for Wolf, a former stand-up and “Saturday Night Live” writer who had a hand in “Black Sheep” and assorted Adam Sandler and David Spade comedies, many of them back in the last millennium, some of them hits but all of them awful although not as awful as this.
Rating: TV-MA, profanity aplenty
Cast: Jasjit Williams, Katerina Tannenbaum, Alena Savostikova, Tommy Flanagan, Patrick Warburton, Colin Quinn and Kate Grimes.
Credits: Directed by Fred Wolf, scripted by Fred Wolf and Michael Buechler. A Gravitas Ventures release on Netflix, Mubi, etc.
Running time: 1:38