In recent years, the comedic entity known as the Frat Pack has suffered something of a decline. Will Ferrell and his band of misfits enjoyed a good decade or so of sophomoric antics and juvenile adventures. Things for this group of clowns basically came to a halt when the hugely successful The Hangover started cloning itself with its sequels. With those films, the world was exposed to a new member of the pack, Mr. Zack Galifianakis, a hairy hobbit-like gentleman with a unique and highly unpredictable brand of humor. His latest comedy Are You Here pairs him up with veteran Frat Packer Owen Wilson. Throw in an awkward performance from funny girl Amy Poehler and you’d think you’d have all the ingredients necessary for a winning chuckle-fest. Sadly, the results here are lackluster at best.
Are You Here is a below average and predictable dramedy about a simple man, Ben Baker (Galifianakis), who’s father has just passed away. He ventures back to his hometown with bestfriend and ladies man Steve Dallas, a carefree drunk/pot head played by Wilson. Upon returning to their childhood neighborhood, they are met with opposition from Ben’s sister Terry (Poehler), who has resentment over some of the reading of their father’s will and inheritance. Together, these colorful characters make for a somewhat entertaining film but sadly, the pros are outweighed by the cons here.
A poor excuse for a dramedy, Are You Here offers nothing new in terms of premise or characters. Writer/director Matthew Weiner (creator of Mad Men) has put together a film that feels all too familiar and similar to that of a television program. It seems Mr. Weiner’s head is still stuck in TV land since this film could easily be passed off as a TV movie or miniseries. The story doesn’t warrant a feature film. The only real draw comes from the cast which contains comedy megastars and the very attractive and talented Laura Ramsey (Mad Men, She’s the Man), who holds her own with three genuinely funny performers.
The majority of the jokes in Are You Here consist of raunchy sex scenes punctuated with subpar one-liners, frequent marijuana use, and random drunkenness. Galifianakis and Wilson do have strong chemistry in the film but the script and premise prevents them from truly taking their on-screen friendship to hilarious heights. Poehler is ridiculously underused and the scenes she does have are off and uncomfortable to watch. Ramsey is the straight girl here, providing sexual tension and complication, making for one of the film’s only saving graces.
Matthew Weiner is a talented filmmaker and I’m sure his intentions with Are You Here were noble. It’s just that the story is uninteresting and the dialogue, not too sharp. His head is still in the Mad Men world and his attempt at leaving that world didn’t work. Perhaps if he were to delve into a different film genre, maybe he could find success. Are You Here is an experiment in the man’s career and some people might appreciate it as a charming little buddy comedy and it does have a decent amount of that, just sadly not enough to constitute a solid feature film.