Commentary

June 15, 2012

On DVD

Fly Over: ‘The Giant Mechanical Man’

Shy zoo worker falls for charming street performer

by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter

Chris Messina is the only redeeming element (and even then, only partly redeeming) in the lackluster 2012 romantic comedy, “The Giant Mechanical Man,” an independent film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

Messina has good on-screen presence, but unfortunately his performance doesn’t compensate for the formulaic story and poor writing.

He plays Tim, a silver-painted street performer who lives with his girlfriend, Pauline (Lucy Punch). Tim fancies himself an artist whose work speaks to the alienation of modern life. Pauline, however, isn’t sold, and after becoming fed up with Tim’s lack of ambition and direction in life, she dumps him and moves out.

Meanwhile, we meet Janice, played by Jenna Fischer (Pam from the TV series “The Office.”) She’s a down-on-her-luck 30-something who has just been fired from her temp job due to numerous customer complaints about her dour personality. Fifteen minutes into the movie, one can see why.

In her apartment one evening, Janice sees Tim being interviewed on the local news and is intrigued. Soon afterward, she sees him on the street, painted silver and on stilts. She approaches him and delivers a little soliloquy about how lost she feels in the world and how his art has inspired her.

Despite being attractive, healthy and apparently having no children to support, Janice can’t seem to get her act together. When she can no longer pay her rent, she moves in with her sister Jill (Malin Akerman) and brother-in-law Brian (Rich Sommer). Both are thinly-sketched, shallow yuppies who think they know what’s best for Janice.

The insufferable couple sets her up on a date with an even more insufferable author of self-help books, Doug (Topher Grace). Grace is playing against type in this role, but it doesn’t feel like he is expanding his horizons so much as just taking a poorly written role in an ill-advised career choice.

As fate would have it, Janice and Tim both soon get jobs working at the zoo. She, in a guerilla hat, sells overpriced grape juice drinks, and he works in maintenance. He has become disillusioned and discouraged with his street performing act, so for the time being has given up his passion. Janice doesn’t know her co-worker was also the giant mechanical man she admired.

The two hit it off and go on a date. At the behest of her sister and brother-in-law, however, Janice sees Doug a couple of more times. Misunderstandings arise with Tim. Anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy knows how this will end. Unfortunately, there’s very little pleasure in watching it play out.

One wonders how such a contrived, unoriginal film could have possibly been given the green light by executives. The film, by the way, was written and directed by Fischer’s husband in real life, Lee Kirk, in his directorial debut.

Despite decent on-screen chemistry between Fischer and Messina, the movie induces far more eye rolling than laughing. Do yourself a favor and keep this flick off your Netflix queue, and when you see it at Blockbuster, keep walking.

The Giant Mechanical Man is rated PG-13. 



About the Author

Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
Tristan Hinderliter is a full-time Public Affairs Officer and part-time pop culture critic. When he's not listening to the Adam Carolla Podcast, he's usually watching movies. His favorite directors include David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Alexander Payne.


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