Right out of the box, I was excited about the casting for this movie. I always liked Patton Oswalt as a stand-up (although the last two times I saw him live it was disappointing). I named his movie Big Fan #15 in the best 75 sports movies ever made (you can find the list somewhere on the Fox5 San Diego website). I don’t think I’ve ever seen an acting performance by Oswalt that wasn’t just right for the character he was playing, even the small roles.
Oswalt plays Chuck, who we see starting the movie by stealing a dog for his son, and a series of voice mail messages making excuses as to why he’s not attending events in his son’s life. It’s reminiscent of Jim Carey’s character in Liar Liar.
Since the movie starts with the message “This story is true. My dad wants me to tell you it’s not” – we realize there will be some kind of reconciliation after such a bizarre story. It was written, directed, and stars James Morosoni. One of the interesting directing choices was the brilliant way it was edited to have characters talking to each other over text. Nothing is more boring than seeing texts appear on screen, so to see the characters sitting next to each other talking, works brilliantly. It also creates a great chemistry for Becca (Claudia Sulewski) and Franklin (James Morosoni). It also makes for some very funny scenes, in which father and son make out (it’s a long story), as well as Chuck and his co-worker/girlfriend (played wonderfully by SNL alum Rachel Dratch). My wife laughed out loud when she tells him to sext her at work, and he asks why they can’t just have sex the normal way and she responds, “Because you’re no good at it.”
I’m guessing women will enjoy that line so much more than the men.
And having the edits where we see the people actually talking to each other, almost makes it a little more understandable how some people can be cat-fished. Oh, maybe I should explain the story. Franklin has blocked his dad from all his social media accountants and phone, because he’s sick of his BS. Dad’s co-worker (played by the always hysterical Lil Rel Howery), talks about how when an ex-girlfriend did that to him, he just created a fake account so he could spy on her. So that’s what Chuck does, despite Jimmy (Howrey) telling him it’s a bad idea.
The story is perfect fodder for a film, and it has enough jokes that make it entertaining. Yet there are some strange moments, and our dislike of Chuck, despite his heart finally being in the right place…has you never really rooting for him. And since the son is suicidal, you also feel like he’s playing with fire, despite his best intentions. There’s something uncomfortable about a person with a mental illness, being toyed with. Also, Franklin starts to become a bit unlikable. When he calls his dad because he needs a ride, you wonder why he’s not a bit nicer, instead of just lashing out at him when he tries to make idle conversation about TV shows.
YouTube star Claudia Sulewski as Becca, is beautiful, obviously. That’s needed for a movie involving a young man being cat-fished, but she’s also terrific in this role, as she basically plays two different characters. One of them is a nice waitress. The other is an overly bubbly personality in “her” chats with Franklin. Not a bad outing for her first film.
Watching this movie made me think of two other films I liked that never got much traction. One of those was written and directed by the underrated comedian Bobcat Goldthwait – World’s Worst Dad (Robin Williams). Another was a movie directed by a great comedian and actor – Kevin Pollak. That would be the true story The Late Bloomer (even though that film is nothing like this, it popped into my mind for some reason). Seek both of those films out.
This movie is a mixed bag. I enjoyed the journey, despite it being a messy narrative. My wife was a little less thrilled by it.
2 ½ stars out of 5. I’ll be looking forward to the next thing James Morosini does.