This is the kind of movie during which one’s mind tends to wander. I suspect it would hightail it out of the theater, hop into the car and head for the city limits if it could but, unfortunately for one’s mind, the best it can do is wander.
I found mine wandering to the recently released book Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, which I happen to be reading. It’s an extremely amusing collection of anecdotes about the comedian,, and 30 Minutes or Less is a comedy that’s almost never amusing but that’s not why my mind wandered to the book.
The reason is this: The book catalogues pranks Handler has played on her staff, family and friends. In a chapter written by comic cohort Heather McDonald, we learn that she once convinced members of her inner circle that she’d been asked to star opposite Meryl Streep in a film based on the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
The most amazing part, recounts McDonald, wasn’t that she was actually going to play Streep’s daughter—to whom the deceased astronaut speaks from heaven—but that the project was conceived as a comedy. “Really? I just don’t see how they could make that funny,” she responded on hearing the news.
In 2003, a Pennsylvania pizza delivery guy was strapped to a bomb, sent into a bank with orders to rob it and then ultimately blown up by two psychos who are now in prison. Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriter Michael Diliberti somewhere along the line became inspired to make a film based on the disaster. The plan was for Jesse Eisenberg to play the pizza guy and, perhaps most confounding, the project was conceived as a comedy. Really? I thought when I read about this. I just don’t see how they could make that funny.
They didn’t. I’d like to think the whole thing was a Handler-esque prank that got out of control but, apparently, producers and studio executives actually thought this was a good idea. Which surprises me less, naturally, than the fact that Eisenberg thought it was a good idea. This is more than simply a spectacularly bad career move. 30 Minutes or Less is literally the first bad movie the actor’s made.
It’s all too moronic to merit more than passing comment. Danny McBride plays a slacker creep who hatches the bomb vest-bank heist scheme in order to get cash to pay a hitman to murder his ex-Marine, lotto-winning father (Fred Ward) before there aren’t any winnings left to inherit. He needs a patsy so he dials the pie place where Eisenberg works.
Once he’s strapped into the vest and given a deadline for producing the loot, his character does what anyone in the same situation would do: He visits his on-again-off-again girlfriend (Dilshad Vadsaria) and then swaps raunchy repartee with his best friend (Aziz Ansari). What he does not do is inform the authorities, something he has countless opportunities to do.
To be fair, virtually all the characters in this movie are dumb or mean or both. I left wondering what Fleischer and Diliberti have against Grand Rapids, Michigan. There’s very little that’s not slapdash, vulgar, predictable or derivative in 30 Minutes or Less. The upside is that’s about how long it should take to forget you ever saw it.