30 November 2011 | StevePulaski
So...how's your day been?
Though the screenwriter Michael Diliberti denies it, it's pretty clear with the striking similarities that 30 Minutes or Less is trying to mirror the 2003 incident where a pizza delivery man was forced to rob a bank with, what he thought, was a fake bomb around his neck. Unfortunately it wasn't, and the bomb exploded killing him. Diliberti was said to be "vaguely aware" of it, but after you watch the film, then read the story, it becomes pretty clear that he was more than that.
30 Minutes or Less is a highly energetic comedy with many laughs, but way too many action set pieces. It relies on that instead of the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari. The film is about Nick (Eisenberg), a pizza man who promises your pizza in thirty minutes or less. His best friend Chet (Ansari) is disgusted when he learns that Nick is sleeping with his twin sister Kate (Vadsaria). They fight and then go on with their merry way.
Meanwhile we are also introduced to Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson), two losers who work for ten dollars an hour cleaning Dwayne's father's pool. Dwayne's dad (played by Fred Ward who scores some of the biggest and dirtiest laughs in the film) was in the military and won the ten million dollar jackpot on the lottery years ago. He spends his money worse than a drunken sailor on big screen TVs, pools, and cars, but somehow has managed to not blow all ten million yet. This causes much dismay amongst Dwayne who is sick of his father's spending habits and his unpleasant personality.
One night at a strip club, a dancer convinces Dwayne that she should call her hit-man (Pena) to kill Dwayne's father so he can inherit the money so that she can make quite a few bucks off of him. The problem is that the hit-man needs $100,000 or he won't do it. So, Dwayne and Travis call an unsuspecting pizza man, who of course has to be Nick, strap a bomb vest to him, tell him that he needs to rob a bank in less than ten hours or the bomb will detonate. When he gets the money he'll be given a code that will disarm the bomb.
That is one bloated comedic premise, and it astonishes me everyone in the film is stupid enough to actually go through with all that. Director Ruben Fleischer who worked with Eisenberg on Zombieland two years ago has unfortunately made him take about ten steps back from the genius he played in The Social Network.
Eisenberg and Ansari seem like they could assist in making some lovable, Harold and Kumar-like chemistry. The problem is the film doesn't ever want to let the characters go off on their own, and at the fear of the audience becoming bored, they decide to throw in so many cliché action set pieces. Once the heist happens, the film doesn't have any purpose else so it decides to throw in a bunch of typical twists and turns hoping to extend the plot past an hour and twenty minutes. It already barely sustains a full length film.
30 Minutes or Less does pack in some pretty heavy laughs, most of them coming from Aziz Ansari as he shows why he should be involved as the lead in more R-rated comedies. He's different and funnier than most comedy actors and he almost compliments the mediocre Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. All I can say is that 2011, along with Your Highness, has not been a kind year for Danny McBride. And when considering Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star it hasn't necessarily been Swardson's year-to-remember either.
The premise is cute, the actors are energetic and lively, and some big laughs are achieved. Ultimately, this is the work of a first time screenwriter and instead of working on something much, much easier, he decided to dive into a film with sizable stars with basic skills. I wouldn't mind seeing Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in a film together again, in fact, I'd commend it, but hopefully next time they'll be in a film where there is more laughs and less yelling.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Fred Ward, and Michael Pena. Directed by: Reuben Fleischer.