By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
Male arrested development has been the subject of enough comedies in the past couple of years to warrant its own mini-genre. But even the man-children of Step Brothers would be puzzled by the protagonist of Full Grown Men — a 35-year-old husband and father who walks out on his family after an argument over action figures.
Alby (Matt McGrath) loves his son and wife, but he loves his childhood obsessions more. ”At 35, having fun is a capital offense,” he laments, although it’s the kind of fun Alby wants to have — playing with his Action Jackson dolls instead of, say, holding down a job — that’s really the problem. With no money and nowhere to go, Alby lands on the couch of his catatonic mother, eating Froot Loops and watching kung-fu movies on TV like it was Saturday afternoon all the time, every day.
The plot of Full Grown Men is kick-started when Alby rings up his childhood best friend Elias (Judah Friedlander of TV’s 30 Rock), whom he taunted with the nickname ”Boliche” (Spanish for round roast), one of the few genuinely funny touches in the film. Elias, now a special ed teacher, is planning a field trip with his students to Diggity Land (a stand-in for Walt Disney World), and Alby worms himself into the trip, eager to reconnect with his old pal and give free rein to his inner child.
Full Grown Men marks the feature debut of director David Munro, who was born and raised in Miami and shoots Florida like a native. The film (which was shot in Dania Beach and Hollywood, among other local spots) has striking cinematography and vivid colors, and Alby and Elias’ road trip to Central Florida captures the strangely beautiful monotony of our state’s landscape.
Along the way, Alby encounters several people who reflect different possibilities of what his life may turn out to be if he maintains his infantile path. The film features cameos by Alan Cumming (as a crazed ex-Diggity Land employee), Amy Sedaris (as an aspiring circus clown marking time as a bartender) and Deborah Harry (as an aging mermaid from Weeki Wachee Springs). There is also, in the film’s best sequence, an amusing detour into a gated retirement community where Alby intends to sell some of his vintage toys.
But Full Grown Men never works the way it’s supposed to, because Alby is an irritating, alienating presence who is impossible to relate to. His behavior seems more psychopathic than anything else, and since the movie opens with him leaving home, you never quite believe this brat would have ever been able to get married and father a child. The character is too ill-conceived to buy into, yet the entire movie rests on him. Despite the occasional line of trenchant dialogue (Alby: ”Do you ever wish you were a kid again?” Elias: ”Not really. Maybe if I was a different kid.”) Full Grown Men doesn’t even make childhood seem like all that much fun.
Cast: Matt McGrath, Judah Friedlander, Joie Lee, Alan Cumming, Amy Sedaris, Deborah Harry
Director: David Munro
Screenwriters: David Munro, Xandra Castleton
Producers: Xandra Castleton, Brian Benson, David Munro
An Emerging Pictures release. Running time: 80 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Cosford Cinema, Miami Beach Cinematheque. Director David Munro will attend a post-screening Q&A at the Cinematheque at 8:30 p.m. Friday.