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August 31, 2011

30 Minutes or Less - Review

I had thirty minutes or less to write this review, so here we go.

A fine genre known as the stoner comedy has emerged recently, due to the rise of Judd Apatow and actor Seth Rogen. We've seen it in films like Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar. It often refers to the fact that the film heavily features pot, but I tend to think it's more descriptive of the films' sense of humor. In this, the film feels like it's written for younger audiences with a sense of humor that, well, you may have to be stoned to get. With that in mind, 30 Minutes or Less probably fits the bill just fine.

Dwayne is an idiot with a crappy life. He's got no job, few aspirations, hangs out with his equally stupid friend Travis all the time, and his rich father constantly treats him like the skidmark he is. One day, he decides that he's fed up, and he wants his dad's money. So he and Travis decide to hire a hitman to kill him so that they can get the inheritance. But first, they need the money to pay for the hit.

That's where Nick comes in. He's a pizza delivery boy whose life seems to be going nowhere. On a routine pizza run, Dwayne and Travis attack him and strap a bomb to his chest, threatening that if he doesn't bring them $100,000 dollars in less than ten hours, they'll blow him up. With his friend Chet in tow, Nick has no choice but to give in. And antics ensue.

There's no doubt the film lives up to it's title. At only 80 minutes, the film moves fast and is over quickly. It's a brief ride, but tries to make sure you're entertained for the entire duration. The humor and jokes go so quickly that it's often difficult to process it all at once. A good bit of the humor falls flat, but when it hits, it hits hard.

The scripting may be the blame here. For most of the movie, it the jokes and humor seemed heavily improvised, as if the writers forgot to write a comedy and the actors had to make it up on the spot. Considering, they do pretty well.

Jessie Eisenberg, while it's disappointing to see him return to this type of role after his outstanding turn in The Social Network, brings his usual neurotic charm to the character of Nick, and gives his scenes a sense of honesty and earnestness few comedies have. Aziz Ansari steals the show as his buddy Chet, delivering some of the funniest lines in the movie. These two play off each other particularly well, making their friendship more believable. 

As for our nefarious duo, Danny McBride uses his usual white trash schtick that we've seen him do before. It's just not that funny very often. McBride seems to have the notion that dropping constant swearing into his lines somehow makes them funnier. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. Nick Swardson is somewhat better, but does nothing particularly noteworthy with his role other than give someone for McBride to play off of.

In truth, the movie should have been much funnier. It boasts a wacky premise that would make old-school screwball comedies proud with a talented cast of comedians. Perhaps the writers only had 30 minutes or less to write it and only had enough time to come up with this outrageous plot and left the actors to make the jokes. It certainly feels that way at times, what with jokes that fall flat and some serious suspension of disbelief (seriously, we're supposed to believe that these idiots can design such a complicated bomb?). However, scenes like the hilarious bank robbery give us a glimpse of what could have been a fantastic comedy.

30 Minutes or Less is a brief, uneven, but fun ride. It's brisk pace, criminally short length, and lazy writing keeps it from meeting it's full potential, but it can be quite entertaining. It's a comedy written for the internet age, and fans of films like Pineapple Express should enjoy it a lot. I certainly did.

3.5/5 Stars

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