|© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
made their mark with the quirky 1996 comedy
BOTTLE ROCKET, a film I'll happily admit I did
not like. I've come to enjoy the brothers in
various roles, however, and the idea of their
reuniting on screen held some promise,
especially since Luke wrote, starred in and
co-directed (with brother Andrew) THE
WENDELL BAKER STORY. The film, which was
first shown on the festival circuit in 2005, is a
throwback to the non-studio fare that was
prevalent in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
Luke Wilson portrays the eponymous Wendell
Baker, a small-time con man with big dreams.
He's got a gorgeous girlfriend Doreen (Eva
Mendes) and a thriving business providing illegal
Mexican immigrants with fake Texas driver's
licenses abetted by his best friend Reyes (Jacob
Vargas). It all falls apart, though, when the
business is raided and Baker accepts full
responsibility, landing himself in jail. At first,
his cocky attitude is off-putting to the parole
board, but he becomes something of a leader
behind bars. Wendell also decides to read all he
can about hotel management which he decides
will be his calling.
He's finally paroled and sent to work at a senior
citizens' home called Shady Grove, where the
nefarious night nurse Neil King (Owen Wilson
relishing the opportunity to play the villain) runs
things his way. With the assistance of an
orderly named McTeague (Eddie Griffin), he
conspires to ship certain people off to work at
his mother's farm in Oklahoma, filing false
death certificates and collecting the insurance
and other benefits. King presents his plan to
Wendell and makes it clear that Baker will be
the fall guy should anything go wrong.
Wendell, spurred on by a trio of residents
(Seymour Cassel, Harry Dean Stanton and Kris
Kristofferson), decides to do the right thing and
embarks on a plan to thwart King. Along the
way, Wendell hopes to win back Doreen who is
now keeping company with a local grocer (an
unbilled Will Ferrell who is fairly amusing since
his appearance is in a small part).
There's a lightweight quality to THE WENDELL
BAKER STORY and the plot is whisper-thin. But
it's clear this was something of a labor of love
and the fact that the Wilson brothers are willing
to share the screen with such old pros as Cassel
and Stanton creates a lot of good will toward
the movie. Still, the film is just a shaggy dog
story dressed up in cowboy boots and a cool
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some crude
and sexual humor
Running time: 99 mins.
Viewed at the Park Avenue Screening Room
|THE WENDELL BAKER STORY
© 2007 THINK Film Company Inc.