Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘30 Minutes or Less’ is Half Funny, Wholly Disappointing

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Average: 4 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The new half-unfunny comedy “30 Minutes or Less” stands as a destructive come down for newly minted star Jesse Eisenberg following his high-profile role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s “The Social Network”.

That 2010 film only won three Oscars and racked up another 88 award wins and 79 nominations. Plus “The Social Network” grossed $224 million at the global box office on a production budget of $40 million. And yes, there’s a reason I’m discussing this past Eisenberg film more prominently so far in this review than his current film.

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in 30 Minutes or Less
Jesse Eisenberg (left) and Aziz Ansari in “30 Minutes or Less”.
Image credit: Wilson Webb, Columbia TriStar Marketing Group

The disparity between those past award wins and that box-office success as compared to Eisenberg’s current film (he voiced the animated film “Rio” between the two) will be light years apart. No Oscar nominations will be earned for this new comedy from first-time writer Michael Diliberti, basically first-time scribe Matthew Sullivan and, most disappointingly, the director of the brilliant and wildly successful Eisenberg film “Zombieland”: Ruben Fleischer.

“30 Minutes or Less” especially makes you miss Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced script that Eisenberg masters in his Facebook film. We don’t know Diliberti and Sullivan and that first-time writing proposition usually either means we get a refreshingly pleasant hit or a catastrophic miss. It flops here. But most people now know Fleischer from “Zombieland” and Eisenberg from “The Social Network” and anyone’s first impression of “30 Minutes or Less” is that we needed much bigger and better from this talented duo.

This is a “go back to the drawing board” film that cries for a rewrite with the elements that make it funny while scrapping the other half that falls flat. Devastatingly mistaking makeshift witticisms for authentic philistine comedy translates into a film that’s unfunny as a used tampon is appetizing.

Dilshad Vadsaria  in 30 Minutes or Less
Dilshad Vadsaria in “30 Minutes or Less”.
Image credit: Wilson Webb, Columbia TriStar Marketing Group

The singular middle-of-the-road sequence that works as a successfully shrewd uncultured moment is the first scene of the film. We’re enjoyably tickled by Eisenberg’s blue-collar character going to preposterously hilarious heights to deliver a pizza in – you guessed it – a guaranteed 30 minutes or less (or the pizza is free). From then on, we wait so long for more of what worked there that we grow old, bored and dejected in only 83 minutes.

By then, banging your head against a wall dotted with steel spikes for the next week seems like a relief. “30 Minutes or Less” overthinks itself. But thankfully, the not-even-1.5-hour film can’t be faulted for being too long and does get in and get out without writhing your brain for too long.

The film’s funniest moments come when it’s just keeping it real and hardly trying at all. Its initial car scene. An apartment fight where Aziz Ansari’s livid about Jesse Eisenberg sporking his sister. And a great sequence with Aziz Ansari hitting up Wikipedia in an attempt to tell Eisenberg how to safely diffuse a bomb strapped to his chest. Plain and simple, that’s funny stuff. The rest tries desperately too hard and just isn’t.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in 30 Minutes or Less
Aziz Ansari (left) and Jesse Eisenberg in “30 Minutes or Less”.
Image credit: Wilson Webb, Columbia TriStar Marketing Group

Interestingly for Eisenberg, this film marks the third flick in a row where his character makes a reference to Facebook. This time, though, he’s “off the grid”.

Overall, despite a seriously talented comedic ensemble, “30 Minutes or Less” suffers from a blatantly inconsistent and unevenly paced partially entertaining story line. It focuses on two male duos – Eisenberg with Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”) and Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down”) with Nick Swardson (“Reno 911!”) – but without really ever bringing the four together.

“30 Minutes or Less” bombs at crafting two equally formidable duos or one unassailable foursome. Instead, we’re subjected to sporadically peppered funnies that aren’t cohesively tied together. The smooth and smart Eisenberg/Ansari pair rises well above a cheesy McBride coupled with a talented brainless oaf played by Swardson.

Star More reviews from Adam Fendelman.

This film tries to be smarter and funnier than it is, and because it isn’t, its release on the big screen with big names is a wasted let down. “30 Minutes or Less” is better suited as a home Blu-ray rental on a lazy night in so long as you’re armed with some spectacularly scrumptious popcorn, mouthwatering candy and five-too-many ice-cold beers to make what you’re watching look better than it is. The late-summer comedy will be forgotten as fast as it arrives.

On a redeemingly upbeat note, stay tuned for the soon-coming interview with Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari where – instead of just roasting the film – we delve deep inside their actually fascinating brains.

“30 Minutes or Less” stars Jesse “I’m Very Embarrassed About This One as Compared to My Last Fincher Hit” Eisenberg, Aziz “Dude, Please Pay to See My Film Because I Gotta Make Some Bank” Ansari, Danny “Eh” McBride, Nick “I’m Smart Enough to Play Stupid” Swardson, Fred “You Might Actually Know Who I Am” Ward, Michael “Damnit! I Hate Getting a Pen Stuck in My Face” Peña and a gaggle of other people you’ve never heard of.

These mysterious supporting peeps who feel lucky to have gotten cast include Dilshad Vadsaria, Bianca Kajlich, Sam Johnston, Jack Foley, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Brett Gelman, Paul Tierney, Staci Lynn Fletcher and Gary Brichetto from sometimes actually revered director Ruben Fleischer and perhaps-you-shouldn’t-write writers Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan.

The film opened on Aug. 12, 2011 and, thankfully, only clocks in a short running time of 83 minutes so we can quickly go about our lives after we wither away from watching it. “30 Minutes or Less” is rated “R” for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence, but all that seemingly scandalous stuff still poops out a stillborn flop. publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2011 Adam Fendelman, LLC

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