The recent documentary Surfwise considers how children raised as ascetics grow up and struggle to make their way in a materialistic society. David Munro's debut feature, Full Grown Men, comes at the problem from the opposite direction. Matt McGrath plays a middle-aged family man and former class clown who still clings to the instant-gratification culture he grew up with: a world of action figures, kung-fu movies, sugar cereals, and amusement parks. Now 35 and having trouble dealing with his responsibilities as a husband and father, McGrath packs a bunch of his vintage toys in a suitcase and travels across Florida, planning to sell his collection, reconnect with his boyhood best friend Judah Friedlander, and go to "Diggityland." Not on his itinerary? Growing the hell up.
Full Grown Men is intended as a commentary on a phenomenon that cartoonist Bill Griffith once dubbed "kidults": adults who dress, behave, and entertain themselves as though they were still 11 years old. The movie is also a subtle dig at the indie quirkfests and Hollywood comedies that lionize these twinkly, sexless, deeply damaged halfwits. To that end, Munro and his co-writer/producer Xandra Castleton create a protagonist who's tough to like, and sketch him so broadly that it's hard to believe he ever married and mated in the first place. While running McGrath through a series of outlandish encounters—first with sociopathic ex-Diggityland employee Alan Cumming, then horny clown-in-training Amy Sedaris, then melancholy mermaid Debbie Harry—Full Grown Men often becomes as intolerably silly as the twee Amerindies it's reacting to.
Really, this story and its theme might've been better served by a protagonist switch. While McGrath plays a selfish, unfunny pest whose pangs of regret over the family he left behind never ring true, Friedlander plays McGrath's former victim and scapegoat, who has converted all his residual anger over a tortured childhood into compassion for the special-needs children he now teaches. Friedlander is a much better audience surrogate, not just because his character is a decent guy, but because like us, he isn't all that happy to see McGrath either.