Film Review: Dealin' with Idiots

This would-be hilarious dissection of Little League angst is not funny or incisive enough.

How I wanted to like this film more than I did! Jeff Garlin has given me so much comic pleasure, especially as Larry David‘s weight-challenged, literally down-to-earth sidekick on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and he was able to call in favors and cast this film with a trove of able comedians who’ve also brought many a smile to my face.

Unfortunately, this trifling ramble about a Little League dad, Max Morris (Garlin), trying to cope with the athletic ineptitude of his boy, as well as the various, clueless yet overly involved parents and coaches clustered around the diamond, just doesn’t deliver enough. Much of Dealin’ with Idiots feels improvised, which is okay when the actors are fully on their game. But here, perhaps the heat of the day and location or insufficiently precise direction have resulted in an awful lot of dead screen time. You want to laugh, but the hollowly puckish dialogue and endless, squirrely observations Garlin & Co. mouth throughout only evoke maybe an occasional wry grin at best.

It’s the unhappy case of performers, maybe too relaxed in a totally unchallenging, collegial comfort zone, coming off as thinking they’re a whole lot funnier than they really are. Garlin often puts himself in a position of dumb wonder at the ridiculousness of his cast-mates’ behavior, but, like so many susceptible, newbie filmmakers through history, he tragically falls under the sophomoric spell of Fellini, climaxing his film with all of the characters suddenly breaking into an absurdly silly dance around Max, just after he has had a complete meltdown in which he maniacally decides to hug them all. One also could do without Max’s fantasy encounters with his dead, baseball-loving father (bizarrely played by Timothy Olyphant, outfitted with gray hair), which smack of tired male-weepie indulgence.

Gina Gershon appears as a lesbian once more, a baseball mom whose partner is played by the hilarious Kerry Kenney-Silver, obviously itching to do more than she has been given (like the accusation that her partner is trying to turn their son gay by serving quiche). This sadly holds true for all of the other talented women—like Nia Vardalos as Max’s wife—in this very male-centric vision, which favors jawing sessions between Garlin and the guys, like an off-the-mark Fred Willard, Richard Kind and the always potentially funny J.B. Smoove, over the development of the female characters. Jamie Gertz, who was maybe the most amusingly bad movie actress in her youth, has gotten much better, however, and does make the most of her martinet mom role.