Is Will Ferrell ready for a dramatic role? As an alcoholic salesman fired from his job (typically, cruelly, as his boss has to get digs in during the termination meeting just so we know we’re on Ferrell’s side), for the most part, he seems just a spit-take away from breaking into Ron Burgundy or Frank the Tank. A thousand clown roles creates a hearty persona.
He’s fired, bullied at the convenience store, and when he gets home, his stuff is on the lawn, courtesy of his wife, who discovered he had an affair, changed the locks and left town. Ferrell then starts living on his lawn.
His neighbors are quirky, there’s a wise neighborhood child, and the moment I saw Michael Pena in the opening credits, I knew he’d be the Hispanic cop assigned the task of saying, “Dude. You can’t be living on your lawn.” There’s not a character in this who resembles a real person, and no amount of acoustic guitar/piano in the background can change that.
Ferrell is supposed to be endearing or at least sympathetic. For the most part, he’s neither. Rather, he’s bland, one note and when he tries to show depth of feeling, he just looks uncomfortable. He confesses his life and mistakes to an improbable pregnant new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) who, upon moving cross country to a new neighborhood ahead of her husband, naturally takes a shine to a weirdo drunk living on his lawn. Even his confession of what I think was an accused date rape only flummoxes her for a moment. You just keep hoping Vince Vaughn will show.
The film is also sloppy. Ferrell is able to blackmail his neighbor into giving him power from a cord, but in the deep throes of alcohol need, desperate for drink, he downs the backwash from old Pabst cans. With what he has on his neighbor, he’d certainly have been able to wrangle enough for a six pack. And when he’s desperately looking for beer, he checks his mini-frig, and it is empty. The next morning, however, he’s grilling bacon. Where did he get bacon?
Finally, there’s the insipid suburbia bashing as Ferrell decries the mother down the street who “blew her brains out because her daughter didn’t make cheerleading” and preaches, “I’m no different than any of you. I just don’t hide in my house.”