Somewhere between Away We Go and Napoleon Dynamite lurks Barry Munday, a quirky indie comedy about a middle-aged womanizer who must lose his cojones in order to find his mojo. The feature directorial debut of actor/writer Chris D'Arienzo, it straddles the line between self-conscious kitsch and sincere storytelling in a way that prevents it from succeeding on either level, even though the stellar cast makes it a highly watchable misfire.
Office drone Barry Munday (Patrick Wilson) fancies himself a ladies' man. Every day when the clock hits 5, the cubicle-dwelling Casanova hits the bar with his best pal, Donald (Shea Whigham), and turns on the charm. Incredibly, the ladies respond more often than not. One day, while sitting outside of a movie theater, Barry locks eyes with a frisky young woman who wastes no time feeling him up once they settle into their seats and the house lights go dim. Just then, everything goes black. The next thing Barry realizes, he's waking up in a hospital bed and being told there was nothing doctors could do to save his testicles. But just as Barry begins to feel like he's lost his reason for living, he receives a letter from a lawyer representing frumpy Ginger Farley (Judy Greer), who claims to be pregnant with his child. Unable to recall their tryst but eager to do the right thing, Barry agrees to support Ginger both morally and financially, a task that isn't easy given the fact that his baby momma can't seem to stand the sight of him. Incredibly, Barry and Ginger manage to develop something of an affectionate bond over meals with their respective families and visits to the doctor, and as the due date looms closer it even starts to look like love may have blossomed under the least likely of circumstances.
If there was ever a guy who could be accused of thinking with the wrong head, it's Barry Munday. It's not that Barry is a bad guy with evil intentions, he's just a slave to his libido and tends to make bad decisions as a result. Regardless, it would be easy to despise the character without a skilled performer to bring out his true personality, and it's a testament to Wilson, barely recognizable in bad jeans and a woven leather belt, that Barry doesn't come off as a leering sexual predator. His oddball energy is matched by co-star Greer, who comes across as a bit too cartoonish in her early scenes, yet grows more humanized as Ginger begins to shed the ugly-duckling image she has so carefully cultivated in order to protect herself emotionally. Of the strong supporting cast, it's Malcolm McDowell as Ginger's father and Billy Dee Williams as Barry's boss who get the most laughs. Increasingly popular character actor Whigham also makes an impression, even though his character virtually vanishes into thin air once the main plot gets under way.
As a first-time director, D'Arienzo proves that he's capable of setting up a shot, but it's difficult to determine whether his talents extend more toward working with actors or establishing a strong visual style, since his main players are primarily Hollywood veterans and a good portion of the film's look seems to stem from Paul Oberman's unconventional production design and Frank Helmer's tucked-in Middle America costumes. Fortunately his screenplay is a bit more focused, moving along at a fairly involving pace and giving satisfying story arcs to the two main characters -- even if the rest come across as decidedly two-dimensional.
Much like the titular character, Barry Munday is a film that has its heart in the right place, but we must suffer some fairly off-putting character quirks to see it.