By Eleanor Ringel Cater
If anyone had asked me, I would’ve voted Kristen Wiig the SNL alum most likely to break the movie curse that has afflicted every female former SNL-er from Gilda Radnor to, well, even Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Granted Fey and Poehler have become small-screen queens, with long-running hit shows and an unforgettable stint as the double-hosts of this year’s. Golden Globes. And Radnor had a hit show on Broadway. But overall…
However, Wiig was, I thought, the girl most likely…and her unqualified success in the uneven “Bridesmaids” seemed to bear that out.
Instead, we have the ghastly — there really is no other word for it — “Girl Most Likely,” in which the utterly lovable Wiig is cast as an utterly annoying sad sack named Imogene (the name itself is a wrong turn).
As the movie starts, Imogene has a life: She lives in Manhattan where she has a job at a gloss magazine, a similarly glossy boyfriend, and an award (albeit dated) naming her one of the most promising new playwrights of 2004.
In short order, all that evaporates, leaving Imogene with no choice but to return to her Jersey roots. Which means returning to the dilapidated beach house where she grew up. Her father having died when she was little, she is left to the untended mercies of her trashy mom Zelda (Annette Bening), a gambling addict with a decidedly odd boyfriend (Matt Dillon) who claims to be a CIA agent.
As if that weren’t colorful enough, Imogene also has a borderline shut-in brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald0) whose obsession with crustaceans is about as close as he can manage to an emotional connection.
However, luckily — inevitably — Mom has rented out Imogene’s old room to hunky Lee (“Glee’s” Darren Criss; can that really be his real name?). Lee has Hollywood-stud stubble, a sweet streak and a job in a Backstreet Boys cover band.
Note to self: write essay about this summer’s mild obsession with the Backstreet Boys.
The picture sticks us in a household that’s as eccentrically “colorful” as “The Royal Tenenbaums” “The Adams Family” and “Running With Scissors” put together.
The cast struggles mightily, but the script is relentlessly scattered and tone deaf. Bob Balaban’s scene late in the film has a chilling bite. Conversely, Ralph creating his own metallic shell (think, crab) is silly and a scene at a bar, where the I-Don’t-Drink Imogene gets plastered is as predictable as you’d think.
The thing is, “The Heat” went through the same familiar trope, but its stars, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, made it uproarious, pushing drunk-girls boundaries every which way they could.
That said, it’s not necessarily the overbearing familiarity of “Girl Most Likely” that defeats it; it’s the ill-conceived logistics.
As far back as “You Can’t Take It With You,” Kaufman and Hart knew there had to be someone “normal” around, off whom everyone else could act nuts. No such luck here. Just nuts and more nuts,
Wiig deserves better. So do we. By the end, I saw myself as the girl most likely to ask for her money back.