If the success of “The Hangover” has led to a wave of R-rated comedies, then you wonder when audiences will get tired of the surplus. This summer we’ve already had “Bridesmaids” and “Horrible Bosses” and “The Change-Up,” to say nothing of “The Hangover Part II” (and let’s say nothing of that).
Maybe the tipping point comes with “30 Minutes or Less,” a sloppy and generally mean-spirited action-comedy based on a crackpot idea.
It’s not terrible, just overly reliant on the usual tropes of this movie: Guys talking about their geeky enthusiasms, random violence, copious profanity, comedians improvising pop-culture dialogue around a vague idea.
Here, director Ruben Fleischer (who did the much tighter “Zombieland“) has a suspense device to wrap his shambling comedy around. A couple of hapless amateur criminals (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson) take a pizza-delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) hostage and strap a bomb to his chest.
The bomb will go off unless the kid robs a bank and hands the money to his captors, who are hatching a ridiculous plot to pay a hit man (a funny Michael Pena) to kill McBride’s jerk of a father (Fred Ward).
It wouldn’t be an R-rated guy-comedy without a certain bromance, which comes in the form of Eisenberg’s lifelong friendship with a schoolteacher (Aziz Ansari, from “Parks and Recreation”); the latter gets dragged into the plot by his desperate pal.
If you’re wondering whether this is an all-male cast, the answer is: just about.
Aside from Eisenberg’s wispy love interest, the most prominent female character is, naturally, a stripper, played by Seattle native Bianca Kajlich (from “Rules of Engagement”). This is the kind of role generally described as “thankless,” although in this case it’s also demeaning and misogynistic.
The four lead actors are comically gifted enough to carry individual scenes, but they’re all doing exactly the same shtick you’ve seen them do before: Eisenberg is jittery and Woody Allen-esque, and Ansari peels off some zany, high-pitched wisecracks from nowhere.
McBride, who can be a dangerously funny presence, is now seriously overexposed after trotting out the same routine in wobbly vehicles like “Due Date” and “Your Highness.”
Along with scenes of the bank robbers spray-painting toy guns to make them look like the real thing, “30 Minutes or Less” tries to create a certain edgy quality, by punctuating the laugh lines with sudden violence.
I get what they’re trying to do, but the uneven tone is off-putting rather than interesting. It doesn’t help matters if you know the movie is very similar to an actual 2003 case in which a pizza-delivery guy was killed in a bomb-and-bank-robbery scheme.
At least the location, in Grand Rapids, Mich., gives the movie a different feel from the usual L.A. backdrop. But when Grand Rapids is the most original thing about your movie, you’ve got issues.
“30 Minutes or Less”
A somewhat stale action-comedy that trots out four comic actors doing their usual shtick. The story has a pizza-delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) wired with a bomb, which will go off unless he robs a bank for two amateur criminals (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson). Aziz Ansari adds some zany one-liners, but the combination of wisecracks and random violence doesn’t blend.
Rated: R for violence, language, nudity.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.