Barry Munday

Barry Munday is one of those movies where all of the characters creep you out, dress in ridiculous outfits, act in ways no normal person would act, and stand around mugging for the camera. Know why they do that? Because the filmmakers were bankrupt for ideas. Several films have fallen prey to this affliction in the past and spotting one is as simple as using one's brain to think logically. If the material isn't funny, then the actors have to strut around wearing goofy mustaches and shag carpet dresses. If the inherent ideas are funny on their own, then there is no need for otherwise respectable actors to pose as utter buffoons. Barry Munday is full of buffoons.

Chief among them is Barry himself, played by Patrick Wilson in some sort of impersonation-slash-homage to Will Ferrell's more ridiculous characters. Barry is a schmuck insurance salesman who looks like a reject from Napoleon Dynamite. Yet he fashions himself a ladies' man -- and quite a successful one at that, if we are to believe Barry's on-again off-again narration, in which he waxes with quasi-perspective about the unfortunate setbacks that have befallen him.

"What kind of setbacks?" you might now be asking. Well, Barry has lost his balls. Literally. Out on an impromptu date with a much younger woman, Barry's scrotum is viciously attacked by the girl's father, and he later wakes up on a hospital bed only to discover he is missing what the film frequently and joyously refers to as his "family jewels." The bad news doesn't end there, however; once Barry finally gets back on his feet, he is provided a cruel reminder of the "wild and crazy guy" he once was when he is slapped with a paternity lawsuit from a woman who claims Barry impregnated her.

The woman, Ginger (Judy Greer), is a dorky spinster who claims her encounter with Barry was her first sexual experience. For Barry, who can't even remember the night in question, the news is unfortunate and suspicious, but he nevertheless steps up to support Ginger and the baby. There are several tedious and futile attempts to extend the film's running time, from Ginger's mysterious and nosy Asian neighbor (might he be the real father?) to her sister, inexplicably played by Chloe Sevigny as one of the most annoyingly contradictory supporting characters of all time. At its core, though, Barry Munday is an obvious and off-putting comedy about how "testicles don't make the man." As noble a sentiment as that may be, the world surely doesn't need these unsavory characters to demonstrate it in such an ineloquent manner.

Wilson is a fine actor, one who typically selects challenging, meaty roles. And in spite of the material, his particular characterization of this loser is good for a chuckle. One curious note, however, is his apparent attraction to films where he loses his manhood, both literally and figuratively. Most obviously there is Hard Candy, where his sleazy sexual predator falls prey to the imaginary scalpel of Ellen Page, but also Little Children, where he portrays a tail-between-his-legs immature family man who briefly flirts with emotional freedom, or even Watchmen, where he was a "castrated" superhero robbed of his social significance.  His choices have been solid and his reasons are all his own, but Barry Munday might be proof that this particular thematic obsession has been suitably depleted of quality.

The same could be said of the film's form, which takes Uncomfortable Indie Awkwardness to an unnecessary extreme. Barry Munday's screenplay, by successful Broadway scribe and first-time feature film director Chris D'Arienzo, seems to forget the notion that simply parading losers in front of the camera and filming them at odd angles does not make a movie funny or interesting. It isn't funny that Judy Greer wears giant glasses and tacky dresses, nor is it funny when Patrick Wilson sings about his awesomeness while scrubbing his nether regions in the shower (okay, maybe that is a little funny). With characters this grating, one wonders how much better Barry Munday might have been had all these good performers just acted normal.

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