IDIOTS Cleverly Conceals Its Wisdom Beneath Its Humor
Jan 8, 2014
There are some universally shared experiences in life. One is birth. Another is death. Yet another is paying taxes. But perhaps the most universally shared experience is that all of us at one time or another have to deal with folks we’ve already christened idiots. How we go about it goes logically as far toward defining ourselves as it does the truly demented, but, oh, what fun we get to experience in seeing the blissfully unaware go about their day-to-day activities! They trouble us. They humor us. They downright make us laugh! This is the stuff at the core to the story comedian Jeff Garlin has written and directed in DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS: it’s nothing that’s going to change the way you live your life … unless, that is, you recognize more than a bit of yourself in one of these delightful dufusses on parade.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Jeff Garlin (played convincingly by the funny Jeff Garlin) loves going to watch his son try-to-succeed at Little League. It’s the assortment of characters that color the off-the-field experience that are driving him nuts! You’ve got the screaming father obsessed with every call being just right. You’ve got the doting ‘team mom’ who’s only trying to enhance the youths’ experiences. You’re got the shirtless coach who can’t help stretching or doing calisthenics while the single ladies are watching. You’ve got the lesbian mommies who just want their boy to do good. You’ve got the hyper wannabe-major-leaguer who can’t help but take everything way too seriously. And you’ve got the hot nanny who’s only there because … well … she’s a hot nanny!
But, when it comes to Jeff’s imagination, he’s also dealing with daddy issues, represented in Jeff’s imagination by his dear old dad’s younger self (an omniscient Timothy Olyphant) who tries to help his son navigate the psychological complexities of being a parent in today’s mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world. So when Jeff decides to develop a comedy video project surrounding the entire Little League experience he’s bound to learn more than he ever wanted to know!
Look. I’m not going to try to deceive you. If you’re expecting a feel good family comedy set on a young boy’s baseball field, then you’re expecting wrong. Jeff Garlin mines comic territory much the same way Jerry Seinfeld or Steven Wright or Larry Charles does: he foists these true-to-life yet stereotypical characters up there in such a way that we’re equally amused as we are reflective of their obvious stupidity. The husband who has to sneak away from his wife in order to read “Soldier of Fortune” magazine. The lesbian too obsessed with hygiene. The coach who gives insane advice at the drop of a hat thinking he’s going to change the outcome of a game. We, the audience, are in on the joke here, and so very much of DEALIN’ is full of mirth.
It’s also full of observations the way any film should be. At 87 minutes, it’s just right, and the lessons in here may not all point us in the same direction, but they do culminate in a climax that reminds us life is best lived by doing what you want – whether that be reading ‘Soldier of Fortune’ magazine, making nutritious snacks for your kids and forcing them to eat it, or even swinging at the ball when your coach has told you to take a walk. Nothing hits you over-the-head more than seeing your own stupidity reflected back at you – Jeff kinda/sorta undergoes his own epiphany in the said climax – and that’s all the film really intended. On that point, it exceeds heartily.
Oh, yeah, and hugs. Never pass up the chance to give a hug. Especially to the hot nanny.
You’ll be glad you did.
DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS (2013) is produced by Killer Films. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group and IFC Films. As for the technical specifications, this independent feature makes excellent use of sight and sound available to any other independent feature. Sadly, there are no legitimate special features to speak of – save the obligatory theatrical trailer – and I guess it isn’t as if there could’ve been any additional insight offered by said special features (the central message of the film is captured in the title, after all) … but, when you put this many comic geniuses together in a room, I suspect there’s more than a fair amount of unused footage and/or deleted scenes and/or bloopers that could’ve padded the package nicely. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Sometimes the best and most surprising comedies really have very little to do with telling a story so much as they secretly delight in underscoring the basic idiosyncrasies, imperfections, and illusions we suffer as ordinary human beings. The TV show SEINFELD did this to great effect, as did the various mockumentaries of Christopher Guest. DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS straddles those two wildly different storytelling formats, and it delivers up something just as banal as it is insightful. I loved it. You might, too. You never can tell.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group and IFC Films provided me with a DVD copy of DEALIN’ WITH IDIOTS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.