Knocked Up took criticism from skeptics who thought it was a preposterous slacker fantasy that a thin, attractive, motivated career gal like Katherine Heigl could fall for a lumpen, unemployed stoner like Seth Rogen. No one, however, would consider Judy Greer’s character in Barry Munday—which suggests Knocked Up re-imagined as Sundance fodder—to be a dream girl. Playing an angry geek perpetually on the verge of exploding into sour rage, Greer is more like a nightmare with legs. She’s an aggressive nerd, carrying a surplus of inchoate anger with nowhere to release it.
Handsome actor Patrick Wilson dons a scruffy goatee and a hideous clothing to play a loser whose life revolves around picking up women in sad little bars for one-night stands. Wilson leads a shallow life unencumbered by meaning until he makes out with the wrong stranger and ends up on the receiving end of a vicious beatdown that costs him his testicles. Shortly after his unfortunate accident, Wilson receives news that he’s impregnated Greer, though he has no memory of sleeping with her. Seeking purpose in a rudderless existence, Wilson throws himself into future fatherhood.
At its core, Barry Munday asks an intriguing question: What does a man controlled by the dictates of an insatiable sex drive do when facing a sexless future? Rather than grapple truthfully with that grim existential dilemma, writer-director Chris D’Arienzo, adapting Frank Turner Hollon’s novel, gives his film over to random wackiness (like a support group for men with bizarre sexual abnormalities), distracting stunt casting, and Napoleon Dynamite-style production design. D’Arienzo goes overboard with campy watercolors, wood paneling, and egregious tackiness; the sets function as a hermetic kitsch museum. In a bold turn, Greer makes no effort to render her character likeable. It’s an uncompromising performance, betrayed by a screenplay whose idea of a redemptive character arc entails having its leads wear progressively nicer clothes to convey their growing maturity. Like Knocked Up, Barry Munday is a coming-of-age story about an overgrown adolescent who becomes a man by fathering a child, but this sluggishly paced quirkfest is awfully sophomoric for a film all about giving up the facile thrills of youth for the responsibilities of adulthood.