Title – Don Verdean (2015)
Director – Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite)
Cast – Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Jemaine Clement, Danny McBride, Will Forte
Plot – Biblical archaeologist Don Verdean (Rockwell) and his trusty assistant Carol Jensen (Ryan) are recruited by small town preacher Tony Lazarus (McBride) to go out into the world and find relics of bible times to help draw in flagging attendance numbers to Tony’s congregation.
“I want to come to the States. I want to live the American Dream for a while. And get a Pontiac”
Review by Eddie on 20/04/2017
Whatever Don Verdean is, it certainly doesn’t feel like a comedy, despite what the premise, cast and trailer may make you think.
What Don Verdean certainly is, is another big old flop from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess who here, much like his previous film Masterminds, squanders a vast array of comedic talents on material that is well suited to the bargain basement bin, not oddball comedy.
Going for strange over outright belly laughs, Don Verdean never seems willing to make the most of its potentially humorous examination of its religiously tinged world and its abundance of oddball characters and when the likes of lead Sam Rockwell and the normally scene stealing Danny McBride can’t get the laughs rolling along at a steady pace, you know your films material just isn’t happening the way in which it should be.
On somewhat of a career lull since his tremendous turn in low budget sci-fi Moon, Rockwell in particular seems both dull and bored in his turn as religious archaeologist Don Verdean. Imbuing Don with nothing but a luscious lathering of facial hair and a bad wardrobe, Rockwell can’t get going and while the likes of McBride, Amy Ryan and Will Forte get little moments within the film, their roles are to slight to improve the overall success of Hess’s misguided journey.
Nothing that happens within Don Verdean, whether it’s overseas digs, awkward press conferences or uninteresting love plots, the film feels forced, no better exemplified by Flight of the Concords star Jermaine Clements Borat-lite turn as Israeli conman Boaz, which ends up being a performance that has to be one of the most grating in recent memory. Had Hess been in tune with his film, a performance such as this would’ve never seen the cold light of day.
Don Verdean might well have been a funny film had it been done differently but as it stands this almost laugh free experience is weird for the sake of being weird and when you’ve forgotten to bring the funnies to the weird party you’re hosting, blame must lay at the feet of Hess, a director that once showed so much odd-ball promise, only to now be wasting the time of us and his cast members in dire ways such as this.
1 large human skull out of 5