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The Informant!

May 21, 2010

The Informant!

This oddly paced comedy delivers some results but fails to produce an expected number of laughs.  It just moves along at such an odd pace for a comedy and almost makes you feel wrong for laughing at the humorous situations.

Mark Whitacre is an employee at ADM, a lysine developing company.  He is in middle management with dreams of being a big shot.  He gets a chance when ADM starts meeting with other agri-companies and he finds out that they are fixing prices.  He decides that it is his duty to blow the whistle on them and go to the FBI.  He contacts the FBI but doesn’t completely realize what he is getting into, and the FBI doesn’t realize what they are getting into with him.  There are a series of odd events between the FBI and Whitacre and ADM.  Things finally fall apart as Whitacre’s issues rise to the surface and the FBI brings ADM down.

The acting in this film is pretty good.  Matt Damon leads off as Mark Whitacre and gives a very good performance, maybe not the breath of emotional change as would be dealt with in the case of the actual condition that Whitacre had, but he still does a good job.  It isn’t Damon’s greatest performance, but it is quite solid.  Joel McHale and Scott Bakula play the two FBI agents working with Whitacre to gather the information against ADM.  McHale is playing a very different role from that on Community or his work on The Soup.  It is still a comedic role, but much of the comedy comes from the absurdity of serious situations instead of a single punchline.  Bakula fits better into the role in many ways.  He comes off as very serious and caring about what happens to Whitacre and his family and then he comes off as extremely frustrated as the series of misadventures take off.  It is a different role from what I’ve previously seen him in as the captain of Enterprise.

Steven Soderbergh directs this bit of a mess of a film.  It unfortunately doesn’t live up to some of his previous directing work, such as Ocean’s Eleven.  The style of humor is just so uneven that it doesn’t come across on the screen all that well, and while awkward humor can be really funny at times, a feature length comedy based on awkward humor and no actual punchlines simply doesn’t work out all that well.  It seems forced in terms of trying to make it funnier than it actually needed to be.  Visually he does a great job, though, creating a world of the early 1990’s with terrible clothes, hair, and interior decoration.  It has that old kind of feel to it, which is sad since the 90’s aren’t all that old, and at times it feels more 80’s than 90’s, but visually it is very well set up.

This film just doesn’t quite deliver, and with the type of comedy that it is, being that it does miss, it misses badly.  It would only need a few minor tweaks to be much better, I feel, but it is hard to put ones finger on exactly where those would be needed because of the type of film it is.  The acting is good, the directing is good, it is awkward to watch and laugh at, but after you don’t feel like it was that great a comedy.

Entertainment Grade: C

Critical Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C+

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