Most of us have had a boss or two who demanded far more than our job descriptions. You know the type; the ones that make you pick up their dry cleaning or take their yappy dog to the vet. You submit yourself to such humiliation because you are currently on the low end of the corporate power structure and you want to advance. In such a world as corporate America there are those with status and those who want; realistically no one comes in anyway between. This is usually a reasonably good premise for a movie. The audience can identify with and even understand the plight of the protagonist. You have the polarization between the proverbial ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ which is good for a few laughs. One film that takes this theme on is ‘Moving McAllister’ by director Andrew Black. The main problem with this film is it adds too many other genres into the mix. There are elements of the road trip flick, out of place geek movie and romantic comedy all blended together. Instead of broadening the possibility for humor all of these genres tend to dilute the basic concept of the flick. It means well and even starts off alright but soon slips downhill.
There are elements of this comedy that would seem to work, at least on paper. It has some well known names in the cast but even the talent assembled here cannot stem the tide against the flick. The initial premise is a man wanting to keep on the boss’ good side agrees to take his daughter on a cross country road trip. Okay, this might make for a reasonably good romantic comedy slash road trip flick. Where things start to fall apart is all the ill conceived ideas added to the movie. We really could have done without such extraneous baggage as a geeky friend, a pet pig and a U-Haul full of the boss’ precious possessions. Ben Gourley takes on three hats in this flick; writer, producer and leading man. This is the first time at bat for the producer and writer spots so much of goes wrong here is lack of experience instead of the absence of talent. He has potential but this is not the vehicle to demonstrate it properly. In so many little independent films like this the person with the initial idea try to take on too many roles in the production. In many cases, such as this, it might have been better to focus on one aspect of film making instead of trying to do it all by yourself. In the credits there are three producers and two executive producers listed. Dropping a personal credit to get more time to focus on what is going on in front of the screen might have been a good idea.
As the film opens we hear a Mr. McAllister (Rutger Hauer) on the phone. He laments that his niece Michelle (Mila Kunis) is a good kid but also a basket case. He needs someone to help get her, her pet and a crate of his belonging and bring her from Savannah, Georgia to Los Angels. Since all the baggage that comes with her makes air travel impractical the only resort is to drive. What is needed is someone completely boring who is also a desperate kiss up. That person will be found in the person of Rick Robinson (Ben Gourley). He is a recent law school graduate working for McAllister as a legal intern in his Miami office and is eager to earn points with the boss. His all important bar exams are a mere four days away and Rick is far from prepared. We are immediately shown that Rick is a loser. He can’t even photocopy a stack of documents without losing a shoe to the elevator and getting a bloody nose in front of the boss. Now this brings us to major plot hole number one. Since Rick is so visibly inept why would a rich and powerful man like McAllister trust the safety of his niece and treasured belongings to him on a cross country road trip? If all he needs is someone that he can be sure will not put the moves on her surely there are others better suited for the task in his employ. Rick agrees, naturally, and the next morning goes to McAllister’s home where he finds a huge crate marked fragile, three hundred dollar bills and some instructions. The first bump in the plan comes at the truck rental place. The cost of the broken down van is two thousand dollars. Rick has to shell out the money from his own credit card. Rick then picks up Michelle who is having a good bye party with her large group of weird roommates. One gives Rick a drink which causes him to pass out and have some pretty strange dreams. In the morning, already late, Rick, Michelle and her beloved pet pig are on their way. On the road they exchange insulting quips. When Michelle says that she is going to Los Angels to become and actress he asks if they already have enough waitresses. She responds asking if Miami has enough copy boys. According the romantic comedy play book insults have to come before love so they are predictably right on track. The truck breaks down. The only help is a very rural couple in a trailer but the husband holds a big hunting knife to Rick’s throat until his wife tells him to put it down. Michelle splits some no-doze pills she shoplifted into Rick’s drink, which results in more hallucinations. They even pick up a hitchhiker, Orlie (Jon Heder) just for good measure. Michelle feels an instant connection with Orlie and is constantly throwing herself at him to the chagrin of Rick. Thankfully Orlie is soon out of the picture when they leave him at a diner.
This film could have taken a track of being a character study. There was enough difference between the two worlds of Rick and Michelle to make that work. For this to be achieved you need characters that are interesting on their own and situations to play them against each other. The characters here are two dimensional. There is nothing as to their background that could provide some motivation or reason for the initial conflict. The ancillary characters drift in and out of the story with little more to do than provide a few gags and exit. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a dumb comedy. Some of my personal favorites can be described as such but they have laughs, cheap laughs true but laughs none the less. In this flick the humor is restricted to a chuckle or two in the ninety minutes running time. Even the pig had potential that was not fulfilled here. If you are going to go silly and there is a pig in the picture you need a good old fashion romp in the mud.
This is basically a solid cast that is wasted here. Recently the definitive DVD of Blade Runner came out. To think that Rutger Hauer was in that and this movie is mind boggling. He is miscast here with little to do than scowl at Rick. Ben Gourley just doesn’t let the audience connect with his character. We just don’t care about his plight. The fact that the bar exam is looming in a few days is underplayed instead of adding more of a beat the clock feel. Mila Kunis is basically playing a meaner version of the role she had on the TV hit ‘That 70’s Show’. She is mean spirited and initially without any redeeming qualities at all. There was nothing to help us understand why she was that way other than the generic ‘spoiled little rich girl’. A lot of people will want to see this for Jon Heder. The fact is he is little more than a few minutes of gags and then he is out.
Magnolia Home Entertainment specializes in bringing independent films to DVD. With Indys the thing is sometimes you hit, other times you don’t. Even though this film is a miss it still comes from a quality distributor. The film is well presented with an anamorphic 1.78:1 video and a Dolby5.1 audio. The production release will feature a commentary by Gourley that was not available on the pre-release screener. This might make a Saturday afternoon beer and pizza flick. It could have been more but it misses the mark.