★★ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language.
"Adam" is a minor, tolerably enjoyable romance that doesn't add up to anything much. Dimple-licious Rose Byrne, rebounding from a bad breakup, moves into a Manhattan brownstone and meets her diffident neighbor Hugh Dancy. She first takes him for a socially awkward schlemiel, but learns that he has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism.
He's highly intelligent but given to blunt honesty. Byrne falls for his childlike innocence because she's an elementary school teacher. Figuring that he just has a tougher than usual case of "nobody understands me," Byrne leads him into an affair. But when Dancy asks her father, Peter Gallagher, what it feels like to be under indictment for felony accounting fraud, it's easy to see this will not be a smooth courtship.
The film earnestly informs us about Dancy's condition, as if the film was an After School Special. I learned that his condition makes you alternately cuddly-zany (he washes Byrne's windows dangling from a rope while wearing a full astronaut suit) and violent (wall mirrors and flowerpots, beware). I also learned that a beautiful 30-something in New York City can't be choosy.
★ out of four stars
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language, drug material.
If there were a cash for clunkers program for ramshackle film vehicles, "The Goods" would command a premium price. This lowbrow car-lot comedy wheezes and sputters, clunks and groans but never makes it into second gear. The movie, the first entirely produced by Will Ferrell's new studio, Gary Sanchez Productions, is a sad debut. Neal Brennan, co-creator of TV's "Chappelle's Show," makes his directing debut, capturing all of the beloved comedy series' raunch and none of its wit.
Jeremy Piven stars ... sigh. Just typing that hurts. Piven plays a motor-mouthed used-car salesman brought in to save a failing dealership. Unless every auto on the crowded lot is sold in three days, owner James Brolin will go bankrupt. Piven's character, a strutting flimflam artist, quarterbacks the sales team, teaching them inventive techniques to defraud the public. The story makes Piven's huckster a sort of hero by positioning him as the underdog fighting against a rival BMW dealership, and by making him good at his trade. How good? Good enough to buy a car, wait 20 minutes and sell it back to the original owner at a profit. But his greasy charisma quickly wears thin, and a romantic subplot pairing him with attractive Jordana Spiro pushes the story toward sheer fantasy.
The movie gores many sacred cows, insulting families, capitalism, sexual responsibility, political correctness and smoking bans, with glee if not originality. Ferrell pops in for an absurd extended cameo that echoes the premise of the film: When your crew isn't getting the job done, bring in a pro. But even his frenzied efforts aren't enough to make the sale.
NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD
★ out of four stars
Rating: R for nudity, sexuality, violence, gore, language, drug use.
Quentin Tarantino is on hand to give his benediction to the films featured in "Not Quite Hollywood," a compilation/celebration of ludicrous Australian exploitation movies. His tribute to obscure drive-in fare from Outback auteurs is a kick -- say what you will, QT can talk. The film assembles filmmakers to reminisce about working unsavory edges of the New Australian Cinema in the 1970s. While their more elitist compatriots were making "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and "My Brilliant Career," they were grinding out sleazy sex comedies, disreputable "documentaries" (one moviemaker staged a satanic mass in his mother-in-law's back yard) and blood-on-the-lens actioners.
Alas, most of the films glimpsed here look like they're more fun to summarize than to view. Tarantino's enthusiasm notwithstanding, backstage gossip about movies of no importance is enough to bore even certified film geeks. There is one anecdote worth repeating. Dennis Hopper, imported to star in a Down Under western, got into character by downing enough 151 rum to pickle a whale. His Aborigine co-star fled the set to talk to nature spirits about Hopper's erratic behavior. "They said Dennis is crazy," he reported. The producer replied, "I could have told you that."