Gigantic (First Independent Pictures, R)

film_gigantic_sm.jpgGigantic gets by a lot longer than it should on the charms of its two leads.







Although she always seems to be taking sub-Natalie-Portman-in-Garden State roles, I have a tendency to see everything that Zooey Deschanel is in, and almost always dislike them accordingly. This tendency to compulsively watch every one of her movies can be traced back to 2003’s All the Real Girls, in which she plays a kooky yet loveable female in what will almost definitely be my favorite movies of the ’00s; even though my faith in her has been shaken after countless crappy movies over the years, both All the Real Girls and her performance in it are enough for me to grant her infinite goodwill, and to endure every other quirky, bullshit American independent comedy she does.

The newest in this seemingly endless stream is Matt Aselton’s directorial debut Gigantic, in which Deschanel again plays a kooky yet loveable girl, as you can tell by her character’s name: Harriet "Happy" Lolly. (Barf!) And while Gigantic certainly fits the mold of her other movies, this context doesn’t prepare you for one key detail: It is far better than it seems like it should be.

The main character here is 28-year-old mattress salesman Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood), who is preoccupied with trying to adopt a Chinese baby, a lifelong dream of his that has so far been thwarted by his being young and unmarried. One day Brian sells a very expensive mattress to a big guy named Al Lolly (John Goodman), who sends his daughter, Happy, to finalize the purchase. For reasons unknown to the audience (aside from that it is a typical male fantasy, and fun to see played out on the big screen), Happy takes a liking to Brian, and soon after propositions him out of the blue.

Gigantic gets by a lot longer than it should on the charms of its two leads; Dano is turning into quite a fine young actor (in fairness, the character Brian is written much better than I would have expected, too) and, as mentioned, I always love Deschanel (though her character is not written nearly as well). The rest of the cast is made up of good, reliable players; Goodman, Ed Asner, and Zach Galifianakis turn up in small roles, which keeps things moving nicely. If you’re going to write a movie with such an insultingly cute plot full of stupid lines like "My ass is in love with this bed," it’s the least you can do to fill your roles with actors of this caliber.

Even so, about two thirds in Gigantic falls apart and turns into the cloying, predictable indie comedy that it has threatened to become all along. And while I was disappointed to see it go down that road, I was still amazed that it hadn’t gone down it sooner. Is it fair to recommend a movie strictly by virtue of the fact that it doesn’t suck as much as you were expecting it to? | Pete Timmermann

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