Over the past decade, Will Ferrell’s taken a spin on the same ride that Eddie Murphy, Mike Meyers, and Chevy Chase took before him: he came out of nowhere to become an MVP on NBC’s SNL (whoa, that was a whole bunch of acronyms), appeared in a handful of smallish roles in other people’s comedies (not to be confused with another acronym: OPP), starred in a few of his own, found massive success in a few more, tried his hand at dramedy, had the public fall out of love with him, and is now in the “taking more chances while considering a sequel to his most popular character” phase of his career (that’d be Ron Burgundy, if you’re curious). Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Ferrell’s work, even when I haven’t particularly enjoyed his films, and I’m one of the few people you’ll find that’ll aggressively defend Stranger Than Fiction. But with Everything Must Go, I didn’t know what to expect: would I enjoy the dramedic talents of Ferrell…or fall in line with the 24% of critics who panned the film?
As it turns out, I liked Everything Must Go well enough, but I wouldn’t bother recommending it to anyone. I’m still holding onto that love for Stranger Than Fiction: if you want to see Will Ferrell doing something other than his shrieking man-child routine, see that film. If you’ve already seen Stranger Than Fiction and are curious to see more of a subdued Ferrell, check out Everything Must Go. If you “hate” Will Ferrell and thought Stranger Than Fiction “sucked (male body parts here)”, well, I can’t imagine that there’s anything here you’re going to fall in love with. There: everybody in the audience should be covered.
Everything Must Go tells the story of Nick (Ferrell), a raging alcoholic (something the film’s ad campaign mysteriously left out) who– on the day we meet him– is in the process of being fired from his job. Apparently, Nick had a bit too much to drink at a recent company gathering out of town, and some untoward things may or may not have happened between him and a female employee. Nick’s boss (played by Glenn Howerton, of It’s Always Sunny infamy) seems to relish giving Nick the boot, and we gather that Nick’s not the most fun dude to work with…particularly after he uses his “forced retirement gift”, a Swiss Army knife, to slash his boss’ tires on the way out the door.
After arriving home, Nick discovers that his wife has left him. She’s also gone the extra mile and thrown all of his worldly possessions out on the lawn, from his clothes to his furniture to a Tiki bar (complete with torches) and his Playboy collection. Nick’s wife isn’t at home, but she went ahead and locked all his stuff outside, anyway. It’s not clear what this accomplishes, exactly, but you know how women iz, yo: always trippin’ on some shiat. Also, women be shoppin’.
Anyway, this is the worst day of Nick’s life, and rather than move all his stuff into the backyard or the garage, he just….lets it sit where it is. He grabs a case of beer, sits down in his recliner, and decides to stay right where he is until his wife returns (or until he gains access to the house, whichever comes first). Obviously, this is a problem for both the nieghbors and the police, but Nick’s got a friend on the force (Michael Pena, again doing an awesome job on film), so he’s given a three-day time limit to stay out on the lawn. After that time, everything must go, including Nick. Hey, that’s the title of the movie! You guys!
Ferrell plays Nick about as you’d expect him to play an angry, drunken, possibly-date-rape-y kinda dude. I didn’t feel like his performance was as nuanced or compelling as the one he delivered in Stranger Than Fiction (yeah, I just used the words “compelling” and “nuanced” to describe a Ferrell performance: haters gonna’ hate), and I didn’t feel an ounce of compassion for the dude. Yeah, crappy things happen to good people, but Nick’s not really all that good of a dude, and even once he starts to sober up he’s kind of a prick. I appreciate the fact that Ferrell (along with writer/director Dan Rush) didn’t feel the need to make Nick completely likable by the end of the film, but it’s clear that we’re supposed to be happy for Nick once the credits roll, or at least to feel as though he’s made some breakthrough in his life. I didn’t feel that the film earned that sentiment, but I didn’t have a bad time watching it try.
Throughout the course of Nick’s three-day stay on the lawn, he encounters a number of neighbors and old friends (Rebecca Hall seems to be introduced as a potential love interest, and I’m happy to report that Rush didn’t go that route), but the most important person he meets is a kid who lives nearby. Said kid (played by Chris Wallace, son of Biggie Smalls) rides up on his bike, gets dragged into Nick’s lawn-vacation, and becomes “business partners” with him when Nick decides to turn his staycation into a “lawn sale”. Wallace is really good here, almost great, and it’ll be interesting to see if he continues to work in Hollywood. He played a younger version of his dad in that Notorious BIG movie that came out a few years ago, and if I’d seen that, I’d be able to compare his work here with what he did there. But I didn’t, so now I don’t know why I even brought it up.
Overall, Everything Must Go is a reasonably good film; it’s just not pants-wettingly awesome. And it’s not as good as Stranger Than Fiction. Do with that information what you will.
Everything Must Go is presented in 1080p (2.40:1, Widescreen), and it looks excellent: the film’s colorful and brightly lit much of the time, and everything comes through with absolute clarity. This is a Lionsgate release, and I’ve always been impressed with their work in the Blu-ray format. If you’re gonna pick this film up, I’d strongly urge you to grab the Blu-ray version over the DVD: the film’s setting, colors, and detail will all only up your appreciation for what Rush has done here.
The audio’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it sounds pretty snazzy. There’s some good ambient stuff going on here with Nick’s neighborhood (and the crowd that sometimes forms in and around his front lawn), and the dialogue all comes through razor sharp. This is a largely quiet film, though, so I can’t say that there were any moments that really blew my doors off while watching it, but it’s as good as it could possibly be.
I’m happy with the special features included here, but not blown away. Here’s what the lineup looks like:
- Audio Commentary with Director Dan Rush and Actor Michael Pena: Uh, how did they record a commentary for this without Ferrell’s involvement? Doesn’t that seem a little odd? Was Ferrell so busy that he couldn’t take 97 minutes out of one day to swing by and record something for Rush’s film? This did not please me, but Rush and Pena’s commentary is still worth a listen. Still, would’ve been a lot more compelling to hear why Ferrell wanted the role, how he interpreted the character, and so on.
- “In Character With Will Ferrell” featurette: Will Ferrell talks about his Everything Must Go character, Nick. Um, OK. Where’s the commentary, Burgundy?
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette: With a film like this, there’s not a lot of “movie magic” to get “behind the scenes” on– it’s largely just a dude sitting on his front lawn, and the behind-the-scenes featurette nails that point home. If you’ve ever wanted to see a camera crew set up in front of a suburban home while set decorators make sure that all those props are in the correct position, this is the featurette for you. All snark aside, this featurette did have a few chuckles and interesting tidbits of information. None that I can recall now that I’m writing this review, but I definitely remember being marginally entertained by this featurette.
- Deleted Scenes: None of ’em are worth writing home about.
So, overall, this is a fairly standard special features package, and what’s here is pretty solid…but the lack of Ferrell on the commentary hurts the overall score.
Everything Must Go on Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but the film itself just isn’t fantastic. I had a decent time watching the film (though, fair warning: the ending’s somewhat abrupt and leaves more than a few loose ends twisting in the breeze) and thought that all involved turned in very solid performances. I was also impressed with Rush’s work on the film’s script and direction…but will hold off on passing a firm judgement until I see his next film. Everything Must Go is a very low-key affair, and I’m curious to see what Rush will do with something a little more elaborate, a little more compelling. The film’s based on a Raymond Carver short story I’ve never read, so I can’t comment on how it compares, but I’ll say this about the film: it was good enough to make me want to seek that short story out…but not good enough for me to recommend.
This one’s right up the middle, folks. Ironic, then, that one of the film’s prevailing bits of wisdom seems to be that we should reject mediocrity and strive to be happier.
Order Everything Must Go on Blu-ray!