Thursday, September 11, 2008

Singin' in the Rainn

I must admit, I'm a little at a loss to explain why The Rocker hasn't gotten more attention. (Although my NY Post colleague, Lou Lumenick, gave it a rave -- and, much to my delight, described Rainn Wilson as "schlubby.")

The Rocker came and went from NYC theaters. It was a tremendous pain finding a place where it was playing. And when we did find a showing in the city, the theater was pretty much empty. (Moreover, the revenue, as of yesterday, has been a paltry $6 million on a $15 million budget.)

Which is a shame, because The Rocker is actually a really, really funny movie.

I was going to say a "really, really cute" movie -- but I stopped myself. "Cute" is always such a put down. But in this case, it might be fitting. (I hope the filmmakers don't take it as an insult*.)

Rainn Wilson (who plays the mirthless Dwight Schrute on The Office) is cast as the quintessential loser. A fifth Beatle. He's the member of a band on the cusp of success who gets tossed overboard just as the band is about to get it's big break, and goes into a 20 year tailspin.

Wilson has a great, Will Ferrell-like lumbering body -- and he uses it hilariously. When he obliviously sits down at his drums, buck naked, eating Chinese food out of the carton -- not knowing that a streamline video of himself is going out over the internet -- I was in hysterics. Like Ferrell (and other great comedians) Wilson can keep his attention focused. He never winks at the camera or breaks character. And that's pretty much the way he goes about his task throughout The Rocker.

And unlike other movies of this sort (I'm thinking specifically of School of Rock), the script is actually really smart -- and not merely in an inside-baseball-for-rock-nerds sort of way. (I was not surprised when I saw Wallace Wolodarsky's name on the writing credits -- he's a writer for The Simpsons.) Wilson become a youtube sensation as "the naked drummer" -- which is the sort of dumb idea that does really take hold. It wouldn't surprise me that such a character would get a record contract out of it.

There are several other jokes which were incredibly smart (notably, a truly great send up of This is Spinal Tap -- but I won't say anything more on that).

Overall, in a summer filled with comedy duds, this one stands out.

*As if they're reading this... Hardy-har-har!