What happens when two former “Seinfeld” writers collaborate to write and direct an indie film? You get an a-typical sitcom script bled out to 90 minutes with every plot twist, mistaken identity, three-times-the-charm jokes planned and executed to perfection. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. However it makes for a movie that, although quite funny while you’re watching it, doesn’t really do much for you afterwards as is the case with “Live Free Or Die.”
John “Rugged” Rudgate (Stanford) is a local loser who aspires to be one bad dude when he’s nothing more than a cowardly, petty thief. He starts rumors about himself committing a variety of serious crimes and try as he might, no one fears or respects him. That is until he meets up with old high school aquaintance Lagrand (Schneider). While it’s unclear if the apparently semi-retarded Lagrand respects Rugged, he at least listens to him and plays along and that’s good enough.
“Live Free Or Die” plays out like a big screen version of “Three’s Company.” You know, the one where there’s a mistaken identity that leads to confusion and then Mr. Furley gets involved and things get really confusing and Jack thinks Janet is doing one thing when really it was Larry who ordered the flowers? That’s basically what happens in “Live Free or Die” yet it just keeps going longer than thirty minutes. Again, the script is perfectly crafted, but that’s the problem. It just feels contrived when a good comedy like this should feel clever.
Aaron Stanford as Rugged is a great straight man that plays against Schneiders buffoon really well. Schneider is downright hilarious and if Will Ferrell keeps making crap, I think Schneider can be the one to fill that weird, loveable doofus role we all love. Schneider has perfect comic timing and imbues Lagrand with some comical physical characteristics that are off the chart. I only wish the rest of this film tried to so hard to be original or funny.
“Live Free or Die” is a low-fi farce that technically works. But in the end it feels like a pale version of say “Raising Arizona” or even “After Hours.”