Good sports: 'Idiots' is a laugh-a-thon
By Richard Roeper
Some comedies make you laugh out loud. Some are more interested in getting you to smile in quiet recognition of the sublime intelligence at work.
Dealin' With Idiots had me beaming. Just beaming at the comedic wonderfulness of it all.
Directed, written by and starring Jeff Garlin (Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm sidekick), whose brilliant, barking delivery makes it sound as if each thought is occurring to him as he's expressing it, the film is a consistently funny gem with moments of inspired lunacy.
Garlin plays Max Morris, a happily married comedian of solid success and better-than-average fame. Perched in the bleachers at his son's game, observing the idiosyncratic, sometimes borderline lunatic behavior of parents, coaches and that weird volunteer guy who wears a uniform and chases down foul balls as if they're prized diamonds, Max believes he's found the inspiration for his next movie.
This kicks off a series of inspired, loosely connected vignettes in which Max visits the homes and/or workplaces of these people, all of whom are various degrees of crazy.
It's an all-star lineup of utility actors, including:
—Jami Gertz as a hyper-intense mom who's constantly rattling the collection bucket and reminding the parents there's a 100 percent participation policy.
—The great Richard Kind as her husband, so henpecked he tells Max his entire life is contained in a small dresser in the bedroom— but he does harbor a crazy dream of one day having an armoire.
— Fred Willard, incapable of giving an unfunny performance, sitting in a giant baseball glove of a chair, chatting amiably with Max and then checking his cellphone and saying, "Why do we bet on horses?"
—J.B. Smoove (another Curb stalwart), who has a trailer-park compound thing going on at his place, with outdoor bathrooms, bikini-clad bimbos and a swimming pool. "We carry burgers," he tells Max, who correctly surmises that means he'll be charged for anything he eats.
—Gina Gershon as a lesbian mom who delivers a priceless monologue about why her partner wants their son to be gay.
—Bob Odenkirk as the coach, who knows much less than he thinks about baseball and is far too invested in making the playoffs than any grown man has a right to be— and what Little League parent can't relate to that?
Max also has conversations with his late father, played by Timothy Olyphant, because of course Jeff Garlin and Timothy Olyphant look so much alike. The old man tells Max the problem with this generation of parents is they're too involved. Just drop the kid off at the game and pick him up when it's over!
Inspired by Garlin's experiences with his son's youth league team, Dealin' With Idiots knows this territory: the sometimes-ridiculous rules, the zealous parents, the coach who tells a weak hitter to try to get hit by a pitch, the kids who would be just as happy if they were kicking a soccer ball on the driveway or goofing around in the pool.
There's not a whole lot of cinematic flair here. Garlin's pretty much a point-and-shoot director, at least on what appears to be a shoestring budget. With its episodic structure, flat look and deadpan tone, Dealin' With Idiots feels more like the first three episodes of a cable series than a complete movie. The ending is so abrupt, it almost feels as if they ran out of money, or story, or both.
But you don't have to be fancy or spend-y to bring the funny. I've seen more than my share of big-budget, star-laden comedies with nowhere near the comedic batting average of this film.
And why do we bet on horses?