by Corey Hall
Meet the Baxter. Hes the terminal nice guy in movies who inevitably gets left at the altar when the real hero rushes in at the last moment to sweep the bride away. Writer-director Michael Showalter stars as the title dweeb, sweet but drippy accountant Elliot. After years of failure, he thinks hes finally won the romantic lottery with his fiancee Caroline (Elizabeth Banks), a magazine editor and impeccably stylish, drop-dead gorgeous blonde (Can such creatures be real?). Never mind that shes all wrong for him, or that Elliots perfect match, a bookish waif named Cecil (Michelle Williams), is right under his nose, temping in his office. Complications arrive in the form of Bradley (Justin Theroux of Six Feet Under), Carolines dashing high school sweetheart, a globe-trotting geologist who can also break dance and quote Keats at the drop of a hat. The ensuing romantic rivalry serves only as a creaky frame for a bunch of jokes, and mild gags at that. Showalter proved his comic chops in the cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer and on the sketch TV shows Stella and The State, and hes serviceable as a first-time director, but as a lead actor hes stiff and mannered. He does get a major boost when playing against Williams, who is luminous, elevating the quality of every scene shes in. The Baxter aims to poke fun at romantic comedy conventions, but gets too caught up in its own quirky rhythms to properly spoof them. The film tries just a little too hard, and the end result is amusing but never hilarious, likable but not lovable just like the Baxter.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.