Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”)
Written by: Michael Diliberti (debut)
For most pizza delivery guys, a bad day might involve getting lost in a shady neighborhood, showing up late with an order, or getting stiffed on a tip. For underachieving pizza guy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a bad day is finding yourself with a bomb strapped to your chest as part of a half-cooked plot by two wannabe criminals. This premise sets the stage for “30 Minutes or Less,” a comedy that boasts more laughs than any other film this summer.
In order to hire a hitman to kill his overbearing Marine father and leave him with a huge inheritance, do-nothing slacker Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his friend Travis (Nick Swardson) devise a scheme to strap a bomb to a pizza delivery man and force him to rob a bank. After Nick grasps the situation he is in, he goes to the only person he can, his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) as they are forced to put aside their differences and try to get Nick out of the situation.
Eisenberg and Ansari display great chemistry as old high school buddies who constantly bounce jokes and insults off of each other. Eisenberg sheds the socially-awkward character we’ve come to know from many of his comedic performances and plays a confident regular guy, which is a welcome departure. However, a bigger revelation is the performance from Ansari, who is poised to become a comedic star on the big screen. Best known for his work as a stand-up comedian and his role on TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” Ansari finally gets a major film role and takes full advantage of it. He zips through a Rolodex of one-liners and ends up with one of the best joke-to-laugh ratios in a comedy this year. It is hard to even call his hilarious non-sequitors “throwaway lines” because even those elicit laughs. Watching these two forced to commit crimes with no clue of what they’re doing is a deep well and never wears out its welcome.
Although still funny in small doses, the weaker duo in the film is McBride and Swardson as faux criminals. McBride has proven to be an acquired taste with his usual routine of unleashing a barrage of improvised vulgarities with varying success. Swardson is a good, albeit small addition as the more tentative Travis, but it is clear that McBride is there for the comedy and Swardson is there to ground him.
This is the kind of comedy that isn’t exactly high concept or deeply meaningful. There’s drug and alcohol intake, crude and sometimes mean-spirited jokes, as well as plans that aren’t too well thought-out and bombs that are too cleverly rigged to be from a couple of know-nothing buffoons.
Despite its lack of depth, “30 Minutes or Less” succeeds where most of the summer comedies this year have failed: its gags are consistent from start to finish. The one-liners from most of the characters are memorable and director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) gets a lot of mileage from the pithy dialogue at the expense of the situation. While “30 Minutes or Less” won’t set a new standard for the comedy genre, it’s a breezy 83-minute caper that’ll gives fans of R-rated material something to cheer about.