The Wendell Baker Story
Wilson bros' uneven comedy has dark undertones.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this comedy is rated PG-13 and co-stars Night at the Museum's Owen Wilson, some of the content may be too much for younger teens. (It's all played for laughs, but still.) There's no real nudity, but there's lots of crude sexual banter ("G spots," "blue balls," etc.), and some of the characters end up in compromising positions (the cops arrest two men set up with underage women). Dark undertones touch on everything from drinking and (prescription) drug use to genuine criminal activity (the main character sells fake IDs, and a nurse fakes her elderly patients' deaths, steals their Medicare checks, and re-sells their prescription drugs) and depression (one retiree holes up in his room for years). The elderly are mocked at length, and in one scene the main character is thought to have molested a child at a urinal.
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What's the Story?
Crude charmer Wendell (Luke Wilson) finally gets his comeuppance when one of his scams finally lands him in prison. But Wendell is so ingratiating that turns jail into a big frat party, football scrimmages and all. But when his long-suffering girlfriend, Doreen (Eva Mendes), finally dumps him, devil-may-care Wendell finally, well, cares. Once paroled, he vows to start over and run his own hotel someday. But he must start at the bottom at Shady Grove, a retirement home (mis)managed by nefariously inept head nurse Neil King (Owen). In King and his mean sidekick, McTeague (Eddie Griffin), Wendell has finally met his match. But with the help of three hell-raising retirees (Harry Dean Stanton, Seymour Cassel, and Kris Kristofferson), Wendell finally gets to play a real hero -- and, yes, maybe get the girl back, too.
Is It Any Good?
With an impressive cast of characters and a likeable lead, Wilson manages to make Wendell Baker Story into a jaunty comedy. It's best when it's effortlessly irreverent -- as when Wendell and Dave cross swords over Doreen, or when Cassel's character tries to pick up a girl by dropping the "G" word ("G-spot"). And Will Ferrell is hilariously brilliant as Doreen's new boyfriend.
But unfortunately, it races inexorably toward a corny second half that loses the energy established in the first 15 minutes. In the movie business, there's a thin line between quirky and trying too hard. Fun as it may be, The Wendell Baker Story unfortunately lands squarely on the latter side.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how movies make audiences sympathize with characters who aren't entirely sympathetic. How does the movie make Wendell seem "good" even though he's actually an alcohol-guzzling lawbreaker? Does his "badness" make his redemption in the end even more striking? Can you think of other similar characters in other movies or TV shows? And what about Wendell and Doreen? Do they seem like a good match? Why does Doreen put up with him early on? Is her character a positive portrayal of women?
- In theaters: May 18, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: October 30, 2007
- Cast: Eva Mendes, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson
- Director: Luke Wilson
- Studio: THINKFilm
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some crude and sexual humor and language.
- Last updated: March 20, 2023
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