By Whitney Borup | February 3, 2011

Jeff (Tobey Maguire) and Nealy Lang (Elizabeth Banks) are a spoiled rich married couple whose material bliss is only soiled by their marital disharmony. After doing some extensive landscaping, the couple starts waking up in the morning to a torn up backyard, caused by a pretty adorable raccoon. In his effort to destroy the little varmint, Jeff begins to make a series of drastic mistakes. With his moral well-being and his reputation as a doctor, husband, and father on the line, Jeff does everything he can to fix his life. Unfortunately, Jeff lives in a dark comedy, and there are no easy fixes in dark comedy.

The Details has a great plot. Though it sounds a little gimmicky in print, the rapid downward spiral that a single raccoon can cause in such an unstable existence is always entertaining and surprising. Each terrible decision Jeff makes leads to groan-worthy, frequently disgusting delight. The performances, also, are sound. It’s refreshing to see Tobey Maguire step out of the teenage Peter Parker roles he frequently takes and into a new kind of adult role. And while I enjoy Maguire in his previous work, it’s inexplicably hilarious to hear him swear. Elizabeth Banks is also pretty good, but the film never utilizes her comedic potential, relegating her to a supporting role status in a film that might work better as a more complex film about the couple’s relationship.

This leads me to my main problem with the film: its simplicity. What could have been a darkly funny yet complicated film is merely darkly funny. The film allows for an uncomfortable viewing experience through its unlikable characters and their propensity for lying, but dark comedy is at its finest when it infuses misunderstandings and disgust with satire. I don’t believe The Details ever goes deeper than the surface level we often see in films where everything will be solved if a character would just tell the truth. Instead of rounding out his full cast of characters, director Jacob Aaron Estes decided to make this a film about Jeff and, thus, flattened the entire film.

And, as a side note, this was one of the worst soundtracks I have heard in recent years. The dopey, 80s studio-style music helps dictate the tone of the film, but it also drowns out the best jokes and overpowers any subtlety and complexity the film might have had.

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