(2.5 stars out of 5.)
For the record, the exclamation point is part of the title, not due to nerdy excitement.
The Informant! is a movie with a charismatic and intriguing protagonist, Mark Whitacare, played excellently by Matt Damon, who is easily the only redeeming grace about this film. This is basically a one-man-show for Mark Whitacre, and since he’s compelling due to his neurosis and/or mental-health issues/bipolarity, the movie does work to a certain extent. The problem is that the plot is unnecessarily convoluted for a comedy and it really distracts you from being able to fully enjoy it. But first, let’s look at Whitacre.
Since his mind is a bit eccentric, many joyous moments of the movie come from his absurd stream-of-consciousness narration. When you get a glimpse of what’s going on in his mind, it gets a laugh every single time. He has many flaws, mainly his bipolarity and pathological lying, but he deals with them so charmingly while conveying innocence that you can’t help but like the guy no matter how badly he screws up. In fact, as the movie continues on, much of the comedy comes from the fact that he does continually make mistake after mistake while giving this vibe of good intentions. Because of his perceived innocence, the people around him hold back their anger when he has done something royally wrong.. The restrained anger from everybody around Whitacare generates many laughs. So far so good.
The problem comes with the specificity of the plot.
The plot in a comedy should work as a device and have something to do with the overall tone and punchline. This movie’s plot is just too confusing. It isn’t that they have to dumb down the dialogue until it becomes unbearably condescending; it’s that they have to ease up on the jargon so that people that aren’t in the field can understand it. So if you’re watching House, they have a lot of medical jargon and they don’t exactly dumb it down, but somebody says something explicit in layman terms so that you basically know what’s going on in the scene. The Informant! doesn’t really do that at all. You have price-fixing, blackmail, undercover work, etc. and they delve into them with such unnecessary detail that even when something funny happens, you laugh but you still wonder what has been going on the past five minutes.
Here’s what watching The Informant! feels like. Imagine you and a friend run into your favorite comedian. He/she wants to tell you a joke, and the punchline is pretty funny, but the setup has all these details that don’t have anything to do with the end. So it’s like your favorite comedian went, “Two guys walk into a bar. The bar was founded by an Irish family in 1949. Back when the bar was being built, there was a feud between two families that didn’t like each other. There was a lot of legal paperwork in store for ownership—” and this jabber goes on for ten minutes. The punchline happens and it’s something about a duck talking which has nothing to do with the rest of the story. You and your friend laugh and your comedian leaves. You look at your friend and go, “Do you have any idea what that was about?” and your friend goes, “It was kind of funny, but I didn’t really get it.” And then you two look at each other, shrug, and have no idea how to really feel about what you just heard.
That joke is what The Informant! is.
The Informant! will be available on February 23, 2010 at your local Best Buy.
Follow Robert Tran on Twitter!
And join the official Facebook Fan Page of all of Robert Tran’s Comedy Movie Reviews!