MRR Review: "Dealin' with Idiots"

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Faced with the absurd competitiveness surrounding his son's youth league baseball team, Max Morris, a famous comedian, decides to get to know the colorful parents and coaches of the team better in an attempt to find the inspiration for his next movie.

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Movie Review: "Dealin' with Idiots"

Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 87 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Jeff Garlin
Genre: Comedy

Max Morris (Jeff Garlin) is happily married with children, living out his dream as a successful comedian who earns good money and has been in several hit movies. He is currently in a bit of a rut though, lacking the inspiration to begin his next project. One day he attends his son's baseball game, and instead of letting his mind wander off, he concentrates on the parents that surround him, realizing that a few of them might just be crazy, which is the basis of the story in "Dealin' with Idiots."

After deciding that he wants to write a movie script based on the borderline lunatic antics of some of the parents, he sets out to get an invite to the home of each one. He says he is doing research for a movie, which of course piques the interest of several parents. Who wouldn't want to be the inspiration for a hit comedy, right? After securing invites to each home, he visits each one in turn, realizing that each parent or set of parents might be a little loonier than the last. There is Rosie (Jamie Gertz), who obsessively collects donations from parents in order to keep the team going. She runs roughshod over her husband, Harold (Richard Kind), whose only dream in life is to upgrade the one dresser drawer Rosie allows him to an armoire one day.

He later visits Sophie (Gina Gershon), who launches into a long, uncomfortable diatribe about her lesbian partner Caitlin (Kerri Kenney), who wants their son to be gay. Then there is deadbeat dad Marty (Fred Willard) who is so obsessed with baseball that he has a large chair in the shape of a baseball mitt and muses about why it is legal to bet on horses but not on ballgames. The best visit is to the copy shop where coach Jimbo (Bob Odenkirk) works, which underscores just how much of a sad sack he is to have to achieve his glory by hanging onto the coattails of kids. It's a crazy crew of people whose often incredulous behaviors have poor Max at a tipping point. Will Max make his movie, or will he go crazy before he can finish the script?

Some comedy films serve up the punchline of the jokes to the audience on a silver platter, as if to inform viewers they are supposed to laugh at that exact moment. Others are slyer about what the audience should laugh at, especially in observational comedies. "Dealin' with Idiots" is a fine example of observational comedy, especially since observing is exactly what Garlin's character is doing throughout the whole film. In fact, observing people and reacting to what he sees is Garlin's trademark, it's what he does often in his comedy act. Even though his character is named Max in the film, Garlin is really just playing a slightly different version of himself here, observing this band of little-league parent misfits and playing off their actions.

Garlin not only stars in the film, he also directed the film and cowrote the script with Peter Murrieta. His fingerprints are all over the film, which is a good thing for those who love a good mix of subtle humor and the occasional physical comedy. Since he had such a huge hand in making the film possible, Garlin could also control the narrative and tone of the film, which he accomplishes here with a deft hand. The overall tone is light, even as Max is silently judging each of the characters in his own way. Even though he is judging the characters, he never gets ugly about it, opting instead to underscore the judgment with an air of kindness. He never judges the parents as people, but instead judges their actions. This keeps the film from detouring into dark comedy territory and makes it a fun summer movie.

"Dealin' with Idiots" is one of those rare films that has some scenes so awkward that they are painful to watch yet somehow painfully funny at the same time. This is a testament not only to Garlin being at the helm but also to how he cast the film. Willard is a comedy all-star who knocks it out of the park every time he is in a movie, and this film is no exception. Gertz and Gershon have very small roles with only a handful of scenes, but they make each second of screen time count. Still, the film belongs to Odenkirk, who has lately been playing against type as the slimy lawyer in "Breaking Bad." It's nice to see him going back to his comedy roots where he effortlessly steals the show in a film with misfits, heart, and a whole lot of laughs.

Rating: 3 out of 5