Supposedly, the great comedic character actor Edmund Gwenn once said, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
I have to agree because I’ve seen a lot of comedies in 2013. A few of them — like This Is The End and The World’s End — have worked. However, the majority of them have not only been bad but they’ve been so bad that they’ve invited audiences to wonder if comedy is a dying art form. For every genuinely clever comedy, it seems like we’ve had to sit through a dozen Movie 43s. These are movies where genuinely funny people get together and proceed to prove that they can be just as unfunny as the obnoxious cousin that everyone avoids at the family reunion.
Case in point: Freeloaders.
Even Movie 43 made me laugh once. That’s one laugh more than I got out of Freeloaders. Freeloaders is quite possibly the least funny comedy that I’ve ever seen. Freeloaders almost feels like a social experiment, a test to see what would happen if an audience, expecting to see a silly and crude comedy, instead found themselves trapped in a laugh-repellent environment for 80 minutes.
Freeloaders tells the story of a group of stereotypes who have spent the last six years living in a mansion owned by “rock star” Adam Duritz. It turns out that one of them is a childhood friend of Duritz’s and, since Duritz has been out touring for the past decade, he’s allowed his friends to occupy his home rent-free. However, Duritz is getting married and planning on moving to New York City and, as a result, he’s selling his mansion. The freeloaders are told that they have a week to get out of the mansion. Well, since everyone in this film is basically a total and complete dumbass, nobody can figure out how to rent an apartment. So, instead, they come up with some painfully wacky schemes to raise the money to buy the mansion themselves. Standing in their way is Adam’s real estate agent who …. well, it’s never really all that clear why she’s standing in their way. Presumably, it’s because there wouldn’t be a film unless she was standing in their way and then we would have all missed out on the chance to watch Freeloaders.
Why doesn’t Freeloaders work?
Well, let’s start by considering the fact that Adam Duritz plays himself. I actually had to go on Wikipedia to remind myself who Adam Duritz is and I discovered that he’ was apparently a big deal back in the 90s and that he’s responsible for that painfully annoying cover of Big Yellow Taxi that was playing everywhere back in the summer of 2003. Unfortunately, as both an actor and as a “fictional” character, Adam Duritz is so bland that his character serves mostly as a distraction. The use of a real celebrity (if Adam Duritz can legitimately be called a celebrity) should have provided the filmmakers with a lot of comedic opportunity but that opportunity is pretty much wasted because Freeloaders seems to be obsessed with letting us know that Adam Duritz is a really great guy.
(That might be because Adam Duritz was one of the film’s producers.)
While I doubt that Adam Duritz has ever been a funny guy, Freeloaders is filled with other actors who have proven themselves to be funny in the past. I, for one, was excited to see the name Nat Faxon in the opening credits because, while he might not be a household name, anyone who has ever seen Nat Faxon in a movie knows just how funny he can be. However, both Mr. Faxon and the rest of cast struggle with the fact that they’re playing a collection of one-dimensional stereotypes. Everyone has one overly defining, predictable trait to help us keep them straight. There’s the nice guy, the stoner, the womanizer, the nice girl, the hoodlum, and the girl who will inspire some in the audience to say, “Is that Olivia Munn?,” largely because she is Olivia Munn. Since they’re never allowed to become individual characters, all of their attempts at humor fall painfully flat. It doesn’t help that director Dan Rosen directs without any hint of timing or originality.
Freeloaders was produced by Broken Lizard, the comedy troupe that’s developed a large cult following as the result of films like Super Troopers and Club Dread. However, the members of Broken Lizard did not write or direct the film and they only appear in a rather brief cameo where they parody Boogie Nights.
The Boogie Nights parody is actually fairly clever but it also highlights this film’s biggest problem. Freeloaders was originally filmed in 2009 and then sat on the shelf until it finally got a very limited theatrical release earlier this year. (Perhaps that’s why one of the film’s characters worries about getting sent to Iraq if he joins the army.) However, the script feels like it was written back in the 90s. Everything from the premise of slacker stoners being forced to raise money to Adam Duritz being described as a world-famous star to Broken Lizard parodying a film that came out in 1997 serves to make this film feel as if it was made about 14 years too late.
I love a good comedy but, by that same regard, there’s nothing a i hate more than a really bad comedy. However, as a film lover, I will always be willing to take chance on comedy. Comedy may be hard but the rewards are great.
Sometimes, you end up with something really special.
Sometimes, you just end up with Freeloaders.