Review of The Giant Mechanical Man

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An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer and the soft spoken zoo worker who falls for him. Starring Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Topher Grace & Malin Akerman.
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Movie Review: "The Giant Mechanical Man"

--Rating: PG-13 (brief strong language, sexual content)
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Directed by: Lee Kirk
Genre: Comedy/Romance

"The Giant Mechanical Man" is a romantic comedy that stays away from some of the usual rom-com clich├ęs. The title character is actually a street performer named Tim (Chris Messina) who dresses up daily in metallic paint and clothes to play a mechanical man on stilts. He performs on the street and earns some money from passersby who enjoy watching him. Although his act is popular, his girlfriend Pauline (Lucy Punch) is less than thrilled with it. In fact, she seems outright ashamed about it. His performances are a bone of contention in a relationship that clearly isn't working out.

Janice (Jenna Fischer) is a temp worker who gets fired from her most recent job. With no money and no job prospects, she is forced to move in with her sister Jill (Malin Ackerman) and her husband Brian (Rich Sommer). Jill is very judgmental about Janice's plan for the future or lack thereof. She feels that someone her age should not be drifting through life as Janice obviously is. Her obnoxious husband feels the same way. The two constantly badger her about it in a fairly blatant attempt to make the audience sympathize with Janice.

Jill decides that one way to get Janice's life on track is to get her into a relationship. She sets her up with a self-help guru named Doug (Topher Grace) who holds seminars that help people learn how to communicate better. Although he talks about conversation, the irony is that he is terrible at making conversations. He dominates the conversation, and the poor Janice doesn't seem to be able to get a word in. She is miserable and begins to confide that misery in the mechanical man, who she bumps into almost daily despite the fact that he changes the location of his act constantly.

Although she lacks a long-term plan for her life, Janice definitely has a short-term plan. She wants to get a job so she can move out of her sister's house. She decides to take a job at the local zoo where Tim was just hired as well. He got the job to try and make Pauline happy, which doesn't work. They break up and the newly single Tim begins to fall for Janice as they work together.

The problem with Tim falling for Janice is that she doesn't know he is the mechanical man. He recognizes her instantly from all her confessions when she watches him perform, but she doesn't recognize him without the metallic paint. Despite the big secret, the two are clearly drawn to each other, yet are terrified of falling in love. Both characters have big insecurities and the freshly-dumped Tim is still bearing the scars of his failed relationship. He doesn't want to get hurt again, especially because Doug is still in the picture despite the fact that Janice clearly doesn't want to be with him.

Messina and Fischer have wonderful, easy chemistry on the screen that really elevates the movie. The audience can definitely see these two as a potential couple, which is a testament to the skills of both actors. Their banter and growing bond is what makes the movie good. Viewers will truly want to see the two of them get together by the end of the movie. The only question is if they can get over their insecurities long enough to make it happen.

The movie was a labor of love for Fischer, who also served as a producer. She bankrolled the film with her own money until funding came through and is married to the film's writer/director Lee Kirk. Kirk clearly knows how to get a great performance out of his wife, as Fischer injects Janice with sensitivity and aimlessness that many people can relate to at some point in their lives. She feels a bit like a lost soul in search of something. The problem is she doesn't know what she is supposed to be searching for. The audience can really feel her frustration and loneliness even though she is constantly surrounded by people.

"The Giant Mechanical Man" could have easily been a formulaic romantic comedy. Thankfully, screenwriter Kirk puts just enough twists and quirky situations in it to make it less predictable than most movies in this genre. The slow-building connection between the two leads is believable and enjoyable, which makes this movie worth the watch.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars