How bittersweet, it’s my final review of the marathon, and I’ve had a real blast. A big thanks to the Juicy Reviewer, the maestro of movies.
Here we are, the fourth and final review of Jared Hess’ works, one of the more original directors in Hollywood today. He’s had a lot of success so far, but no one bats a thousand, could “Don Verdean” be Hess’ Waterloo?
IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH JARED HESS DOUBLE-TAKE REVIEW: True fans of cinema are familiar with Jared Hess’ work, his wheelhouse is strange and quirky character driven comedies, like “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre”. That’s a high bar Hess has set for himself. In his latest project “Don Verdean” we’re introduced to Don, an oddball Indiana Jones. Don’s life is a constant struggle to scratch out a meager living finding questionable sacred relics from the Holy Land. Barely making ends meet, Lady Luck seems to finally smile on Don in the form of an overzealous patron named Reverend Lazarus, who offers to finance all of Don’s future expeditions in exchange for whatever relics are recovered. Now Don is under pressure to produce a steady flow of artifacts to satiate Rev. Lazarus and his congregation’s endless appetite for relics. Suddenly Don, his unscrupulous partner Boaz, and sweet assistant Carol find themselves in way over their heads, in this diabolically wacky escapade.
I thought the plot sounded interesting, especially since I enjoy Hess’ work, but something is a little off here. “Don Verdean” starts promising, but unfortunately the start is squandered as the story never gets on track or gains any real footing. It’s sleepy pacing left me wishing for a more deliberate and enthusiastic approach. Sadly “Don Verdean” devolves into an unabashed attempt to parody evangelicals, portraying them as mindless imbeciles, faithfully believing anything told to them. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t a total loss, I really enjoyed the strong acting from the able cast. Rockwell’s (Don) performance is well done, it’s quiet and reserved, but I kinda miss his deep well of kooky characters. Clement as Boaz is very good, and he almost steals the show. Ryan as long suffering Carol is the most relatable character here, her performance truly incites empathy. And finally Will Forte as nutty Pastor Fontain, who gives an over-the-top cameo performance as a former satanist turned pastor. Despite these nice performances the script is just too thin to give the actors enough material to work with. Most of the humor is in the form of dry dialogue that lacks any comic depth. I did chuckle at some of the wisecracking banter, but there’s not any real belly laughs. Hess, as with most of his movies, creates an aura of an 80’s sitcom here, and it actually works somehow. I know there’s a redemption story here somewhere, but I just lost interest looking for it. I admit that I really wanted to like this movie, but it’s simply not funny enough. I can’t shake the feeling that Hess was trying to be more mainstream with “Don Verdean”, which is a shame. The finale is somewhat touching and helped improve my feelings about this film, upping my final score slightly. Initially I considered giving this movie Burnt Popcorn, but reconsidered due to the strong performances from the cast. I think only die hard Hess fans will enjoy this movie, which is too bad, it could have been so much better. “Don Verdean” is definitely an interesting movie, but laughs here are as hard to find as Goliath’s skull. FINAL SCORE: 75%= Juicy Popcorn.
Here’s the trailer:
Sam Rockwell- Don Verdean
Amy Ryan- Carol Jensen
Jemaine Clement- Boaz
Danny McBride- Tony Lazarus
Will Forte- Pastor Fontaine