These days, there are so many comedies that may look good on paper, due to their concept and the stars that sign up to make them, that it’s always a pleasant surprise when they end up being better than expected. That isn’t the case with All Nighter, a stale effort from director Gavin Wiesen (The Art of Getting By) that pairs Emile Hirsch and J.K. Simmons as people from different walks of life who are forced to spend time together on an important mission. It’s not a particularly new or original idea for comedy, but there is so much potential in simply putting those two actors together that it should be a comic goldmine… at least on paper.
As the film begins, Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton) is bringing her struggling musician boyfriend Martin (Hirsch) home to meet her serious, business-minded father, Frank Gallo (Simmons). Unsurprisingly, Frank has no time or patience for Martin’s hippie-like life aesthetic.
Six months later, Martin and Ginnie have broken up, something Frank doesn’t realize when he shows up at Martin’s place looking for a daughter who hasn’t been answering her phone. Worried, the pair go out searching for her at her former place of work, as well as where she moved after leaving Martin. As they make the rounds, Martin is told by just about everyone who knows them to get over her and move on, which is harder than they think. And until he finds his daughter, Frank has to put up with the stoner, because he doesn’t have any particularly better leads.
All Nighter is a movie that tries way too hard to be funny, always going for the most obvious gags possible and basically wasting its considerable talent. To be fair, Emile Hirsch is genuinely likeable and well-cast as Martin, and he is appropriately paired with Simmons, who just doesn’t have much to really challenge him in the role of a rich womanizer with many secrets. No, the main duo isn’t the problem as much as it is the bad writing and a lot of the cast around them.
Worst of the bunch is former Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam, one of the odd characters they meet while looking for Ginnie. The missing girl lived with him and his wife, played by Kristen Schaal (The Last Man on Earth), who also isn’t able to do much with what she’s given by writer Seth Owen. Their characters are an annoying, squabbling couple, who threaten to constantly drain the movie of laughs. Hence, just as viewers might start to accept the movie’s otherwise mundane “odd couple” premise, Killam returns and plays a bigger part in the film’s last half, basically trampling over any good will that’s been built since his earlier appearance. (It’s hard to believe that any single actor could bring the always funny Schaal down so much.)
It’s equally a shame that a talented actress like Analeigh Tipton is wasted in a role where she appears for the first 10 or 15 minutes then disappears for the rest of the movie. That probably comes with the territory of merely being the impetus for bringing the other characters together.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the movie goes so wrong, but one has to imagine that they didn’t bother to develop Owen’s script as much as it needed to be worked on in order to get the biggest laughs. It also doesn’t seem like Wiesen, who wrote his earlier material, is a strong enough director in terms of comedy to get the most out of this picture.
Because of this, All Nighter falls somewhere between the type of bad indie comedy one might see at a film festival looking for distribution—one we always hope is better than it ends up being—and the type of comedies that studios constantly greenlight usually for all the wrong reasons. It’s just a shame that good actors like Hirsch and Simmons have to be mixed up and dragged down by such a bland attempt at laughter.
All Nighter opens in LA on Friday, March 17, and in other cities on March 24.