Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cadillac Man

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Robin Williams, in much the same way I imagine most of his fans do. He can be incredibly funny at times, but he unfortunately has a tendency to overdo everything until he just becomes completely obnoxious (I know, stunning that a former cokehead might have this problem). With this film, though, we have a different problem, where he manages to play his role in a nicely understated manner, and yet the film around him is pretty clueless.

Williams stars as a used car salesman with the required wreck of a personal life and a job that’s on the verge of nonexistence, as any film like this seems to require. His dealership is relocating, and the owner has decided to have a contest among the employees to see who can sell the most cars on a big sale day, and thus see who will be allowed to keep their jobs. If this sounds overly similar to Glengarry Glen Ross, a far superior work set in the real estate world, I should mention that the second half of the film is pretty drastically different. See, as the filmmakers don’t really seem to know how to pull off a movie like this, early on in the big sale day everyone is taken hostage by Tim Robbins as the crazed boyfriend of Williams’ big competition for the job, and we’re left with Williams trying to use all his skill as a salesman to talk Robbins down and get everyone out of there alive and safe.

I should say that there’s nothing really done too poorly about any of this, it just all fails to excel. Its schizophrenic nature stops it from being able to build up to anything impressive plotwise (the film would have been much better served if it had kept to one plot or the other), and it’s nowhere near as funny as its kindred used car comedy Used Cars. Instead, it just kind of sits there, pleasantly inoffensive, and never really trying for fear of failure. The only time you really get any sense of how good the movie could have been is at the very beginning, where he happens to drive past a funeral and tries to cheer up the grieving widow by selling her a used car. It’s almost deceptive how good that scene is, when the rest of the film is unable to keep up. Still, this is the ideal level of quality for a movie you’d expect to see on cable on a weekend afternoon: mild fluff, moderately entertaining while it’s there, and utterly unmemorable once it’s done.

Rating: **

No comments: