#20. The Informant!
If you’re just joining the party, here’s the list of The Twenty-Three Best Movies I’ve Seen In Theaters This Year.
I’ve been dreading doing this review because, while I cannot seem to summon any enthusiasm for the movie, neither can I spew any vitriol towards it. It seems, even in this review, The Informant! lacks any element of life.
The problem with The Informant! is that it just lies there, like a dead thing (or your momma! Boom!). Is it a drama? Maybe. The stakes keep rising as the plot moves along, and there’s an implicit understanding that Matt Damon’s character is in way over his head. Is it a comedy? Maybe. There are funny parts, and Damon is consistently amusing, perhaps even exceptional, whether on screen or in his understated, off-kilter voiceovers. Is it a satire? Maybe. It seems vaguely satirical, and most of the serious roles are played by top-notch comedians, leaving the viewer to assume that it’s supposed to be satirical.
But that’s the inherent problem. Even after having left the theater, I didn’t really know what it was supposed to be. I don’t have to tell you what a huge failure that is.
Let me tell you my suspicion: director Steven Soderbergh read the screenplay and felt that it was a satire. He cast the movie accordingly, throwing ace comedians (Joel McHale, Patton Oswalt, Tony Hale, Paul F. Tompkins, Tom Smothers, etc.) into all the major roles. Then he gave the actors plenty of rope, assuming that they would just find the rhythm as the movie went along.
Unfortunately, the plot structure is too disjointed to allow such a maneuver. While Damon’s in the movie enough to establish a consistent tone, the rest of the cast appears in only a three or four scenes at the most. Most of them look like they tried to find the joke, couldn't, and decided to play it straight. There's nothing wrong with playing it straight, but most of the film takes place in boardrooms with characters bickering back and forth, and if there's no joke to be played, there's no reason to watch. So while the movie chugs along acceptably, there's never any sort of narrative momentum - the situation gets neither more dramatic nor particularly funny.
Sort of like this review, which is helpless to do anything but state the facts in the face of this singularly disappointing film.
In fact, the only reason the movie has any life at all is from Damon's performance, who remains eminently watchable and explosively funny the whole film - more in spite of than because of his gigantic and wholly unnecessary weight gain for this role.
Instead, the trailer - which boils the movie down to its funniest, most on-target moments - ends up being a much better representation of how a movie like this should feel. And that's a pretty sad thing to see.