The Hippo


Dec 6, 2019








30 Minutes or Less (R)


A pizza delivery guy and his best friend are forced at bomb-point to rob a bank for some yay-hoos in 30 Minutes or Less, a movie that should have been funny.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a go-nowhere slacker who hates his job as a pizza delivery man (which he is pretty bad at) and who doesn’t have the confidence to tell friend Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria) that he likes her. Making the Kate situation more difficult for him is (1) the fact that she’s likely headed out of town to embark on a new career and (2) she is the twin sister of Nick’s best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari). Chet, a newly minted teacher, doesn’t know about Nick’s attempt to form a relationship with Kate and is horrified when he learns of it. So much so that he essentially breaks up with Nick, who then heads to work, where he is promptly kidnapped by two guys in gorilla masks, drugged and awakened to find a bomb strapped to him.

The kidnapping is part of a confused plot by another slacker, Dwayne (Danny McBride), and his friend Travis (Nick Swardson). Dwayne, a giant destructive baby-man, is cheesed at his dad (Fred Ward), who, he feels, doesn’t show him any respect. This may be because Dwayne is a jobless slug who still lives with his father, half-heartedly chasing boneheaded moneymaking ideas and complaining about things like being asked to clean the pool. Dwayne meets Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), a stripper who tells him that for $100,000 she can get Chango (Michael Peña) to off his dad and leave him (and presumably her) with the inheritance. But Dwayne doesn’t have $100,000 so he decides to get it by “thinking like a millionaire” and kidnapping someone to rob a bank for him. Rob a bank for $100,000 or we’ll detonate this bomb, Dwayne tells Nick. Travis, who goes along with this scheme, is nonetheless troubled by it and, like us in the audience, doesn’t always seem to know how to react to Dwayne’s sudden moments of blood-thirstiness.

Because Nick is desperate, he turns to Chet for help. Despite their recent falling out, Chet decides to help his friend and soon the two are trying to stage a bank robbery, hand off the money and free Nick from the bomb.

Have you ever made a meal with the best ingredients? Cheese that costs $25 per pound, wine that costs $30 a bottle, vegetables from the farmers market, meat so fresh it’s practically mooing? You prepare it perfectly, you spend extra time getting everything cut uniformly and you perfectly plan the cook time so that it’s off the stove and on the table in seconds. And then, despite the best possible set of circumstances, it just isn’t that great. Not bad, really. Everything’s cooked fine, nothing’s spoiled or off. Just flat, maybe, no flavor. Nothing in the results that shows off how great the things going in were. You started with ingredients that were Iron Chef-worthy but your dinner tastes like sauce from a can, a microwavable entree. The real kicker is that a week later you’ll carelessly make a meal out of whatever’s left over and some supermarket cheese and it will be awesome. The greatness of it will wake you up at night.

Ruben Fleischer, who directed this movie, directed Zombieland, a movie that definitely had more going for it than supermarket cheese but it is an unexpected delight that will have you laughing at its awesomeness months later. 30 Minutes or Less had great ingredients — Eisenberg is solid in a shlub role, Aziz Ansari is good in any role, the premise is entertaining enough, Danny McBride makes an excellent fathead. But put it all together and, fizzle, nothing. No spark, no bite, no lasting memories of hilarity. The movie wasn’t awful but it was as if nobody bothered to turn on the comedy. It was an empty shell with no life. “This just isn’t working,” I found myself thinking, sadly, not too far in. “That just never worked,” I found myself thinking as I left. Watching this movie was like slowly realizing that the oven you thought you were roasting a chicken in for the last 30 minutes was stone cold. First there’s panic (oh no, will it fix itself?), then despair (it’s not going to get any better, or woe is us), then an attempt to rationalize (maybe it’s just the Dwayne character, maybe his strange mix of doofus-ness and cruelty is specifically what’s wrong) and then acceptance (I’ll still get funny Ansari on Parks & Recreation).

In the kitchen, you try to learn from these moments and then you order pizza. With movies, spare yourself the befuddlement and sadness of 30 Minutes or Less and just order up some Zombieland from Netflix. C-

Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence. Directed by Ruben Fleischer with screenplay by Michael Dilberti and story by Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan,
30 Minutes or Less is an hour and 23 minutes long and distributed by Sony Pictures. 

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