review for The Baxter on AllMovie

The Baxter (2005)
by Cammila Collar review

It may not have been very high on the radar, but if any 2005 film deserves a disapproving glare and a reproachful "Shame on you!" it is The Baxter. This terrible movie forces its poor viewers to suffer a major letdown, as anyone whose seen many of its cast and crew members work together on projects like Wet Hot American Summer, The State, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin had high expectations for The Baxter to deliver that specific brand of absurd and ironic humor that we can not only look to no other source for, but can expect this talented group to excel at. It would seem completely impossible that a comedy with similar aims could include Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Rudd in its cast list and still fail. Even still, failing is what it unequivocally does. The Baxter's sparse moments of genuine sweetness, funny absurdity, or insightful parody lend credence to the theory that first-time feature film director Michael Showalter intended The Baxter to expand his niche, as a film with one cinematic foot in absurdist comedy and the other in romantic comedy. The result of his effort, however, is really nothing more than a collection of incohesive scenes that play out disjointedly between long stretches of awkward dialogue, needless extra characters, and parodies that don't seem to know what they're spoofing. Indeed, The Baxter is full of moments where you can't tell what Showalter is referencing, and you're too bored to care. Even the comedic bits that would ordinarily work are too buried in the pre-existing awkwardness and pacing problems to earn laughs. By the time Paul Rudd shows up halfway through the film, it looks by all accounts like he's there to save it--though such a feat is beyond even his abilities. This movie's problems have nothing to do with its cast: each performance, including Showalter's, is admirable and devoted. It's the writing, the direction, the editing: every element of behind-the-scenes execution conspires to make the film jumbled, slow, and hokey. Perhaps this serves as evidence that Showalter, as writer, director, producer and star, was simply wearing too many hats.