[Screen It]


(2017) (Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern) (R)

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Comedy: A misanthrope tries to reunite with his ex-wife and learns that they have a 17-year-old daughter.
Wilson (WOODY HARRELSON) is something of a misanthrope who dislikes technology and has few friends. When he learns that his father is dying from cancer, he leaves his beloved pooch with his pet sitter, Shelly (JUDY GREER), to visit his dad. Upon that man's passing, he decides he'd like to get back together with his ex-wife who left him seventeen years ago to have an abortion, followed by a life of drug use and prostitution.

When he finally finds Pippi (LAURA DERN), he discovers that she didn't have the abortion, but instead had the baby that she then gave up for adoption. Wilson then decides the two should find their daughter and do so in the form of 17-year-old Claire (ISABELLA AMARA) who isn't happy in her life, what with being bullied for being a plus-sized teen and having rich parents who she doesn't believe are that involved in her life. From that point on, Wilson tries to form a new family of sorts with his ex and their daughter.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
In this year's latest Oscar bait biopic "Wilson," Wayne Brady is perfectly cast as the iconic TV comedian Flip Wilson who Time Magazine noted in 1972 -- in the heyday of the performer's show -- as "TV's first black superstar." Likely remembered best for his in-drag alter-ego, Geraldine Jones, Wilson was...I'm sorry...what's that? Oh, it's not about Flip?

In this year's latest example of dredging up old material rather than create something new, the brain trust of Hollywood has decided to give Tom Hanks' co-star in "Cast Away" his own sequel with "Wilson." Yes, the titular volleyball with a bloody handprint for his face gets his own film that takes up where we last saw him floating away...Excuse me? Really, not that Wilson either? Okay, how about…

In this year's first studio-backed entry in the subgenre of misanthropic comedies, Woody Harrelson plays the title character in "Wilson," a small offering with some big stars and a few decent laughs, but also an underdeveloped storyline and is essentially an overall undercooked offering that's neither acerbic or heartwarming enough to fully engage and entertain viewers.

Like Flip, our title character has longings to create an alternate version of himself, and like the volleyball, he's pretty much all alone (save for his beloved dog) as he floats through the second half of his life.

His best "friend" is moving away, his dad has just died, and he still thinks about his wife who left him seventeen years ago. Heck, he can't even land a date by rear-ending a woman in a parking lot. And since he doesn't believe in social media, he routinely invades others' personal space to chat with others before dropping some belittlement.

As that gets him nowhere, he decides to seek out his ex (Laura Dern) despite her having dumped him in the past to have an abortion and then lose herself in the world of drugs and prostitution. But when he finds Pippi, he learns that she didn't go through with the procedure and instead had their baby that she gave up for adoption.

With his ex in tow, he meets their daughter, now a plus-size teen (Isabella Amara) who's bullied by others due to her weight and doesn't like her rich parents or her overall life for that matter. Wilson then tries to create a makeshift family out of the three, but as Dern's character points out, they're like something from out of a horror movie.

Some of the comedy -- mainly in the form of dialogue and specifically related to some of the title character's comically harsh put-downs -- works and is funny or at least amusing to one degree or another. But Harrelson doesn't quite succeed in making his character the sort of misanthrope you want to spend 100 minutes hanging out with in a dark theater or, later, in your living room.

We obviously know and thus predict he's going to encounter an outside influence (the girl in this case) that's going to soften him up. But the way in which Craig Johnson and screenwriter Daniel Clowes (adapting his own graphic novel of the same name, much like he did with the far better "Ghost World") fashion the character and storyline feels half-baked.

As a result, it's not as tasty and firm as it might have been with additional cinematic baking, so to speak. It's simply one of those offerings that's just sort of nothing more than present, removed from the oven before its time.

While it's probably better than what might have been with "Spike It: The Geraldine Jones Story," it's certainly not as good as the best films that feature misanthropic protagonists. As it stands, this "Wilson" evokes not much more than a "meh" response and thus rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed March 21, 2017 / Posted March 24, 2017

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