LITTLE ROCK The Details is less of a movie and more of a failed endurance test. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes, who gained attention with his debut Mean Creek, dares viewers to care whether one of the least appealing and downright stupid characters in recent screen history survives a prolonged showdown with raccoons.
Allegedly an edgy comedy, The Details is the big-screen equivalent of being stuck next to an inebriated bar patron who can’t stop sharing dirty jokes but is too wasted to reach the punch lines. While the patron may be amused by his own wit, no one else is.
Our nominal hero is Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire), an OB-GYN so dim, it’s a miracle he got out of medical school. Actually, that seems to be the primary plot point.
Jeff wants to build onto his home so that he can make room for a nursery. He and his wife, Nealy (a tragically underutilized Elizabeth Banks), haven’t been doing much lately that would result in another child, but Jeff is willing to defy Seattle building codes to get his nursery for a baby that’s not coming anytime soon.
He also gets into a blood feud with the aforementioned critters because they’re tearing up his backyard. Instead of following Nealy’s practical advice, he tries a variety of strategies that inadvertently put him at odds with his crazy-cat-lady neighbor Lila (Laura Linney).
You’d think a doctor could figure out how to keep raccoons from his yard. A smarter physician might even devise a way to do it without hurting them in the process. Jeff, however, seems determined to drag his neighborhood and us along with him into folly.
Somehow Jeff manages to work infidelity and murder into this escalating fiasco, but Estes fails to make any of the bad behavior on screen remotely shocking. Because most viewers think more quickly than Jeff and probably would have an easy time resisting the temptations that befall him, Jeff is astonishingly alienating. We can guess where his actions will lead, but he and the other people in the tale seem like the sort of people who’d stand in a crosswalk waiting for cars to hit them.
Oh, sure, Jeff does a commendable thing or two, but he’s such a fool that most of the film plays like a celebration of his inability to make a rational decision. The sleepy eyed Maguire only exacerbates the feeling of indifference that creeps throughout the film.
Whenever Maguire’s on the screen, he seems to suck the life from the tale as if he’s asking the audience to join him for a prolonged nap. No wonder the raccoons, who only make token appearances, are infinitely more likable.
With the somnambulist Maguire in the lead, it’s a shame that the raccoons, Banks, Linney, Kerry Washington, Ray Liotta and Dennis Haysbert (sporting a shaved head) didn’t get more screen time. Haysbert’s Allstate commercials are far more entertaining. They also don’t cost anything to watch.
The Details 62 Cast: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Kerry Washington, Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert Director: Jacob Aaron Estes Rated: R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief violence Running time: 91 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 38 on 11/16/2012
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