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‘30 Minutes or Less’ is long enough for stale raunch-com

Bawdy stoner comedy/heist tale is like 'Pineapple Express' and a dozen others

POSTED: August 11, 2011 12:30 a.m.
Wilson Webb/AP Photo/Sony-Columbia Pictures

Aziz Ansari, right, and Jesse Eisenberg are shown in Columbia Pictures' "30 Minutes or Less."

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Haven't we seen a raunchy, stoner comedy with some action sequences and slapstick thrown in?

Yes. Yes, we have.

"30 Minutes or Less" is the latest in the endless series of guy movies that use foul language and genitals for most of their jokes.

If that reaction seems unfair, maybe it's because I'm still suffering from the drill bit hangover that has knocked me around since I saw the 40-year old funny people in the superbad movie "The Change-Up" last week. (See what I did there?)

"30 Minutes or Less" is built around two pairs of best friends living in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is in his mid-20s but still delivers pizzas. His lifelong friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), has just become a full-time substitute teacher. Nick has been dating Chet's sister Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria) for years, behind Chet's back by the way, and now Kate has been accepted into a hotel management program in far off Atlanta (thanks for the mention).

Nick is being left behind by the people closest to him and has no direction of his own.

Meanwhile, two idiots named Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) are also facing a life crisis. Dwayne's ex-military father (Fred Ward) insults him viciously. Not that we feel sorry for Dwayne, mind you. Fact is, all Dwayne and Travis do is get stoned, crack sexist and racist jokes, and frequent a local strip club.

Dwayne's father won $10 million in the lottery years ago, and Dwayne is afraid dad will spend his inheritance. One day a dancer at the club named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich) tells Dwayne she knows a hitman from Detroit who can take care of dear old dad for only $100,000.

Dwayne likes the idea, and soon Juicy's deadly yet comedic friend, Chango (Michael Peña), arrives in town. The only other hurdle for Dwayne is to get the money to pay Chango.

So Dwayne and Travis order a pizza, Nick delivers it, they knock him out and strap a bomb vest on him, and they tell him he has nine hours to rob a bank for them or they'll detonate the bomb and kill him.

Naturally, Nick asks Chet for help, and we have our bungling crime adventure story set in motion, setting the stage for all manner of inappropriate dialogue.

The raunchy comedy goes back at least to "Porky's" (1982), but for the past decade we can blame or credit, depending on your opinion, Judd Apatow, who has either directed or produced many of them.

"30 Minutes or Less" is not an Apatow movie, but it definitely follows the same old formula. This movie bears the most resemblance to "Pineapple Express," a movie I liked — three years ago.

Lacking a unique tone or memorable lines and jokes, this variation seems stale. In fact, this whole brand of comedy has become badly over-played.

The only refreshing element here is Peña, who creates the one memorable character of the movie.

"30 Minutes or Less" isn't terrible, it's just average. Occasionally enjoyable but instantly forgettable.

The most disappointing part is that this is director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to "Zombieland." That zombie comedy didn't offer a terribly original setup, but it was visually inventive and took at least one totally unexpected plot turn. In fact, it veers away from its central story for a solid 15 minutes, a choice that in theory should be a mistake but ends up being the best part of the movie.

"30 Minutes or Less" never surprises or does anything remotely original. It's a stumble in Fleischer's promising career.

Even if you still enjoy the raunch-coms, you're better off waiting for home video on this one.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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