Handsome Gets Ugly.
81 minutes later and the only mystery in Netflix's latest release, Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie, is the reason why they made it.
This isn't going to be pretty.
Oh. Just thought of another mystery. Why colon the title? This isn't Star Wars or even a sequel. It's not even a Netflix trait. House of Cards: A Netflix Political Drama did not happen. "Netflix" must be 21st century shorthand for 'straight-to-video'.
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie, as the name so ironically and ingeniously suggests, is a movie about an overweight inspector, usually mildly funny Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Daddy Day Care fame,who uses his latest investigation to learn about life and his own. Original.
Before we even meet Detective Handsome, actor Steven Weber [you know! Steven Weber?!] playing himself in this ditty of the film, appears out of his swanky actors' swimming pool to reveal to us that he is in fact the killer of the film. Removing any mystery from the start, he urges us to "enjoy!". More irony.
If the title and the fourth wall break weren't enough to make you feel that this film was a little quirky and off-beat (perfect for the Netflix generation some would say), a nonsensical James Bond-style opening credits lures us into the first chapter. This could be construed as a glut of post-modernism - or rather it indicates an indecision over what to really pin this film down as. This is a theme which inhibits it throughout.
So, after the awkward opening, we are finally met with Gene Handsome. Gene is a single, 50-something with a breed-ambiguous dog and a liking for cookies. His life turns mildly ajar upon finding that his neighbour's child minder, who we had met for 30 seconds and have established no connection with whatsoever given that she was hidden behind a door, has been brutally murdered. Oh no! Who did it...
With the mystery plot spoiled by Mr Weber from the off, our attention is forced to Detective Handsome. Such is the description in the above paragraph, he doesn't even seem the kinda guy we want to be investing our evening on. He's down on his luck, probably in the same town he grew up in and his quest for happiness is slowly reaching its demise. There is further disparity in that so little time is actually spent developing Handsome, or any other character, for us to care. The scenes are over so fast and the acting is so dry that the audience are left detached from a character, whose whole purpose now is to drive our interest.
It seems the film, written, starring and directed by Garlin, is relying on us understanding the depths we believe we know about Jeff Garlin already so that we project them onto Handsome, simply because he plays the same Jeff Garlin we already know and have seen a thousand times. Pure laziness.
The lack of character development and back-story in both Garlin and his plot function co-stars [special mention to Natasha Lyonne, reprising her role as annoying whatshername from American Pie] feel as though Garlin has rushed the film into a tight 80 minute spot in order to cater for the short-attention span of its ADHD Netflix audience, handing us something we will forget quicker than it took us to watch it.
This along with the inability to use common genre tropes ultimately leaves us a little lost, especially when a mystery is what we were expecting and a character study with no depthy characters is what we get.
With all of this negativity, there was hope that a few punchlines could render this film at least "a pointless and plotless fun comedy"; say like most of Will Ferrell's recent films. However, even given Garlin's background in Curb, nothing hits the mark comedically. This comes to a head during the final third when Handsome is forcing entry into a garage through a window to get to Weber's character. He can fit fine. He's just unfit and can't manage to do it elegantly. A character we care about, we'd want to give them a helping hand, a plaster for his cuts.
But as a microcosm of Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie, we are totally indifferent to seeing it come to an ugly fall.
I lost respect for Netflix for this.
Verdict: 1.9 - Don't watch - unless you can maintain this guy's enthusiasm.