The rise of funny, scruffy cable-TV sitcoms has made it all the harder for filmmakers to get much play with the kind of quirky, low-key comedies that used to be fêted at festivals. Drake Doremus’ Douchebag, for example, is a scattered, slight, simplistic indie-com, and yet the movie’s leads are strong, and Douchebag has moments that suggest how much better it would’ve been if Doremus, his cast, and his co-writers had allowed themselves the space and time to develop their ideas. At 70 minutes, Douchebag feels both rushed and way too slack, but the bigger problem is that the kind of characters and humor this movie traffics in can be found in a more compact, amusing package on the average FX show.
Andrew Dickler plays the chief douchebag in Douchebag: a skinny, balding, bushy-bearded Los Angeles vegan with a knack for making women laugh. Ben York Jones plays Dickler’s brother, a shy artist still wounded by the way Dickler treated him when they were younger. A few days before Dickler is due to get married, his fiancée Marguerite Moreau drives up the California coast to persuade Jones to come to the wedding. After an awkward reunion, Jones makes an offhand comment about the girl he loved in fifth grade, and Dickler insists that that the two of them look her up on the Internet and take a road trip to find her. The next day, they’re off to Santa Monica, Palm Springs, and San Diego, leaving Moreau at home to fret over whether the brothers will make it back for the big event.
That’s a silly premise, especially for a movie that doesn’t take a silly approach to the material. At times, Doremus and company seem to be struggling to force a narrative arc onto Douchebag, when it’s clear they’d rather be watching the characters just hang out. Doremus has a good eye for the varied landscapes of California, and Dickler creates such a distinctive type—a self-centered man-child who covers his preoccupation with toys, games, and girls by feigning a detached, scholarly expertise—that it’s a shame they slip so easily into conventionality. These people and the world they inhabit are vivid enough to sustain something much more original.