Will Ferrell is one of those comedians who occasionally tries to venture into dramas so he doesn’t get typecast. Sometimes it sort of works (‘Stranger Than Fiction’) while other times, they pass by unnoticed (‘Winter Passing’). His most recent foray is a little picture called ‘Everything Must Go.’

Nick (Ferrell) is a salesman who is a recovering alcoholic. He has mostly stayed sober lately although one slip up costs him his job. As if that’s not bad enough, that same day, he comes home to find that his wife has left him. All of his stuff is out on the front lawn, the locks are changed, the codes are reset and he has no legal way of getting back inside. Dejectedly, he starts pounding Pabst Blue Ribbons (featured extremely prominently throughout).

His sponsor, Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Pena) visits him and tries to talk some sense into Nick. Seeing he won’t get anywhere, he gives a permit to Nick that will allow him to be outside for five days as long as he is having a yard sale. Nick isn’t willing to sell anything, though.

There is also a young, pregnant woman Samantha (Rebecca Hall) who is moving into the house across the street. She is waiting for her husband to come to Arizona, but he is in New York on business. Also accompanying Nick is a boy named Kenny (Christopher CJ Wallace) with no parental supervision who rides around in the street on his bike. He forms a strange bond with Nick and they manage to teach each other some valuable lessons.

Will Nick get his life, his wife, and maybe even his job back? Can he let go of all of the possessions on his lawn?

As far as drama go, this has a novel premise. That’s really the story’s strong suit because the execution is largely by the numbers. It’s without any glaring missteps outside of the predictability, but sometimes that’s the most frustrating thing you can say about a story. Despite the strong elements, without offering up something unexpected, it hurts the enjoyment. There is a mild twist or two in the story, though even they aren’t that surprising.

Nick’s predicament is a giant symbol and not an ineffective one. His life has fallen apart and with all of his possessions in full view of everyone, he is completely exposed to the world. There is no privacy or respite from his misery so he must publicly wallow in it.

Maybe Ferrell has spoiled us over the years, but it’s hard to not wish for a few more laughs from the story. There are so many opportunities. It’s not completely bereft of chuckles, but a more concerted effort to take the opportunities that the plot naturally offered up would have garnered a wider audience. Some of the more effective scenes feature humor of the dry, almost deadpan variety. Maybe it’s too low-key for many, but some will appreciate prioritizing the drama.

Ferrell plays one of his more complicated characters here. He alternates between desperate, angry, and depressed. For all of his flaws, he isn’t a bad guy, just one of those eternal screw-ups. Kenny probably causes the most growth for Nick as makes the troubled man take on a role where the lines are blurred between paternal and friend with the boy. Rebecca Hall’s character has problems within her own life that sort of mirror those of Nick’s, but she is able to keep hers concealed within her own four walls. Michael Pena’s Detective Garcia comes across as being at the end of his rope trying to help Nick.

Special features include: commentary, a look at Nick as a character, behind the scenes, and deleted scenes.

A limited theatrical run accounts for why you may not have heard about this film when it was released. It has enough star power, but the deliberate approach and modest goals don’t always translate to big bucks. When people see comedians in a drama, there tends to be a natural inclination to hope for a glimmer of what we know them best for. Not enough to derail the mood of the story, but to reassure us, in a weird way. This can be done without when the material and the acting are both strong enough to make you forget who you are seeing on the screen. While the movie isn’t bad, it’s not good enough to transcend these expectations.

This isn’t the Will Ferrell drama that you should start with. ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ is a more effective transitional piece if he is to tackle more dramatic roles in the future.

Rated R               97 minutes                 2011

This post was written by:

J.J. Ellis – When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

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