Eat Wheaties! – Review

Eat Wheaties! - Review

Eat Wheaties! – Review. By Alif Majeed.

It is clear from the get-go that Eat Wheaties! is gunning to be a charming, quirky movie. Right from its title, it strains hard to get you to like the movie. There are also times throughout the film that it looks like it gets close to swaying and drowning in its indie quirkiness. The movie sticks its landing because of Tony Hale, who carries the movie rather well.

Sid Straw (Tony Hale, riffing off his stunted man-child routine) plays a marketing executive who becomes part of his high school reunion committee as the movie begins. Realizing that he needs to contact his ex-schoolmates, he signs up on Facebook after years of not being on any social media platforms. When he stumbles on a picture of him and Elizabeth Banks together as they went to the same college, he reaches out to her, not realizing that he had sent her a public message on a fan page of Banks. The situation escalates as his messages go viral, embarrassing Sid and his family. 

What gives the movie a very familiar sense of deja vu is Tony Hale playing the protagonist, which is a character he can play in his sleep. Sid plays off as an extension of all the man-child characters he has played so far, striking very close to Buster Bluth in Arrested Development. It can sometimes get confusing whether we are amused by the character or Tony Hale, the actor. The power of stereotyping works to that extent with the movie. 

Despite that being the case, the stereotyping is also one of the major reasons the movie works, as Tony Hale uses much of his awkward personality traits and uses it to make the character likable. He makes the scenes where he is overwhelmed by the pressures to belong, even on social media, easy to relate to. The horror of his misguided messages to Banks strikes a nerve when you realize the impact they had on his life as he loses everything bit by bit. Hale gives a face to the man whose life it has affected when his mishap goes viral. A guy nobody might think of after a few days, but would be written off as the Elizabeth Banks stalker guy. That is a scary situation to be in, and you get a wonderful sense of it watching the movie. He pulls a tremendous sleight of hand here by using his man-child persona we associate him with and make you care for what happens to him. 

Paul Walter Hauser, as the lawyer (with an online fake university degree) who represents Hale, is also riffing off his character in Cobra Kai. But it works here as he is a perfect foil to Hale’s character. David Walton playing Sid’s well adjusted brother Tom also makes an impact. The usual practice is to portray the more handsome jock brother of the awkward character as a mean prick. But his affection for his brother shines, and you feel the genuine warmth between the two siblings.

What dilutes the impact is that the movie is a little too sweet for its own good, as it often skirts the thin line of trying too hard. Characters are often mean to Sid, often to mitigate any notions that he might be creepy and just to make him more likable. Scott Abramovitch, the writer-director, also wants to make sure we sympathize with him by throwing everything at Sid to make him hit rock bottom. By the end, though, it looks like they are trying to tie up everything in a neat little bowtie in a rushed manner, which doesn’t feel too earned. Like they wanted him to complete his hero’s journey fast and finish things off.

But the monologue explaining the movie’s title earns its mushiness largely because of Tony Hale, who delivers it without trying to manipulate you. This also extends to our opinion of the overall film. It is an earnest movie that pulls through from sinking under the weight of its cutesiness because of Hale’s spirited performance. 

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