Film Review: Are You Here

“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner conjures empty men for his second feature outing, the story of two loser pals who win a chance to upgrade their lives when one happens upon an unexpected inheritance. Surprising failure on multiple counts.
Reviews

Will the real Matthew Weiner please stand up? It seems impossible that the smash TV series “Mad Men” and dud Are You Here could have emanated from the same brain.

But evidence proves otherwise and the mystery behind creativity is furthered. Many viewers hooked on the consummately entertaining “Mad Men” may take a dip, but negative word of mouth might pollute those waters.

Weiner’s film is meant to be, it seems, an amusing look at the personal journeys of childhood pals Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a local ho-hum Maryland TV weatherman who, working a maxed-out credit card, excessively drinks, does his share of pot, frequents hookers, and compulsively ogles naked neighbors. No surprise that his longtime best bud Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis), who lives in a trailer, is a rudderless pothead slacker and a self-described “animal.”

But the death of Ben’s estranged father gooses the plot when Ben, accompanied by Steve, returns to his childhood farm to inherit and share an unexpected family fortune with his uptight married sister, Terry (Amy Poehler). There’s also Angela (Laura Ramsey), the father’s attractive 25-year-old trophy wife—their stepmom—to deal with. She’s given nothing, but has some sort of excuse to remain on the property besides becoming a potential love interest for Ben or Steve. Attentive viewers will see where this is all headed but won’t care.

Reacting to Ben having gotten the bigger slice of the inheritance, Terry blasts that “you were the squeaky wheel who got the oil.” Even Steve is given a stake because of his ties to Ben. Inspired by time spent on his long bong tube, Ben’s idea is to use the property to develop an Institute of Enlightenment.

A court battle ensues, initiated by Terry, which isn’t all bad because Peter Bogdanovich pops in as judge. Also lending a hand is shrink Dr. Vincent (Edward Hermann), who gives Ben a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which helps him in his battle with Terry. To further embellish the plot, Ben beats a creep at a bar and, particularly distasteful, Angela goads Steve to slaughter a chicken, which he does, so the gang can have dinner.

Steve further triumphs. Having been high on pot or drunk during his time on air as weatherman, he somehow gets promoted to news anchorman but quits the gig because the pure country life beckons, among other things. On the romantic end of things, Angela and the two pals figure prominently, even as what transpires rings as manufactured as anything out of a 3D printer.

The film is clearly meant to be funny, but attempts at humor are lame. Also lame is the title. Why no question mark? Where is “here”? Who is “you”?

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