Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
They say that "the devil is in the details," and that may be true. In The Details, Toby Maguire isn't quite the root of all evil, but he comes pretty close playing one of the most unlikeable protagonists in quite a while. As he breezes through this dark, convoluted comedy, you kind of just want a grand piano to fall on his head.
Be careful what you wish for in The Details. It begins like a murder-mystery, where we know something bad has happened and someone is about to hit the rewind button to show us how we got there. Maguire's voice-over tells us that we often obsess over the details when we look back on something that went bad, wishing we could have done something different. We are shown a bottle of poison, a plate of cheese and salami, a kidney and a plant from Trader Joe's - among a few other items - and we are told that these seemingly insignificant items factor in to the "something bad" that has happened.
Sadly, there is not much comedy in a film full of good actors having lots of fun. How is that possible? Watch The Details to see how a great cast can be reduced by addition.
Maguire is Jeff, married to Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), and he obsesses daily about the raccoons tearing up his yard. She tells him to just landscape without sod but he's on a mission. To smooth over the construction, he is forced to appease his crazy cat-lady neighbor played by Laura Linney, who has no shame in grabbing a quick paycheck with this performance. One thing leads to another and hilarity ensues, right?
Wrong. Jeff also gets caught up messing around with his good friend's wife (Kerry Washington) and the husband (Ray Liotta) plans on extorting him. Then there is a sub-plot where Jeff's pal Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert) is in need of a kidney transplant. Oh yeah, then there is an unexpected pregnancy. Oh, and a grand piano.
The Details forgoes any real attempt at characterization - or even comedy for that matter - and instead over-stuffs all of these plot contrivances one on top of the other. Maguire seems numb to it all, as does most of this cast. The comedy is - and I'm guessing here - meant to come from the absurd situations the characters are presented with, as opposed to finding absurdity in realistic situations. This forced brand of comedy falls flat, and the end credits begin to roll before any real traction is had.
It was fun to watch for all of the "detailed" items presented in the beginning, to see when they would pop up and how they would tie together. Had we been given any reason - any reason at all - to care for Jeff or his associates, it may have been a different film.
Instead, The Details takes 20 years of TV sitcom plot contrivances and serves them up on the same hot, steaming plate. Then it asks you to look closer, when all you really want to do is scoot away from the table.
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Toby Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Ray Liotta, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Kerry Washington
Written & Directed by Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek)
Opens locally on Friday, November 2nd, 2012.
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