I want to send my heartfelt and sincere apologies to Replicas, The Hustle, and Drunk Parents. I was too hard on you. Please accept my apology. I have just watched Redbox’s first attempt at original content, Benjamin, and you won’t see a worse film this year.
The good people at Redbox threw their hat into the digital streaming ring in 2012 and ceased its operation just 19 short months later. They closed up shop reportedly over the shady types verifying stolen credit cards through their service (not to mention subscription numbers trailed their heavy-hitter competitors). In 2017, they opened up Red Box On-Demand, going for the Vudu or new Fandango model for digital streaming. They have now taken the necessary next step with their own original content, Benjamin. Unfortunately, it’s a forced, unfunny, and cringe-worthy film that steps into their next phase that might be as poorly done as their streaming service 7 years before.
There is absolutely nothing fresh or different about Redbox’s dark dramedy, Benjamin. The most creative part of the film is using a magic bullet to make fruit loop flavored milk… yet, even the use of this product placement is outdated. The film is poorly executed, and the script has about as much energy as a sloth looking around for their next meal. When the cast starts to quip back and forth, its an exercise in Simon Says, repeating the exact same sentence that was just uttered so the story remains in neutral. This may make for good constructive conversation, but never for a movie that is in desperate need of a serious jolt of something more than forced, tepid, and humorless banter. This is serious fluff to kill time for a film that already feels a half-hour too long at its unmerciful 89 minutes.
When the film’s script does go for dark, it goes for shock value by making off the wall comments, observations, and revelations that are like forcing pieces to a puzzle that don’t fit. Watching characters go from pedophilia jokes, admissions of wanting to wear women’s underwear and make-up, an out of nowhere 2-minute monologue about vaginas, and even tone-deaf cracks about “cutting” oneself as if they are telling their audience look how edgy and dark we can be.
This is a Bob Saget directed film and he has surrounded himself with an all-star cast, but only if this was 1999. I think the Full House star holds his own behind a camera while working with a lifeless script. Saget though can play an overly earnest father, like Danny Tanner or even a very dirty version of his alter-ego stand-up career like guest spots in Entourage, but he was a poor choice to put in the lead role as a father overwrought with the worry of his son and his family life falling apart. This though is asking too much of him here.
I do recognize casting himself is not all about ego, and probably saved the production some money so he could direct, but you needed a well-seasoned actor for these types of character flaws (even as false and forced as those can be). The only real person who fares well in the film is Kevin Pollack, who does what he can with the lines given, in a supporting role as a lovable, wisecracking uncle type. I feel for him here, he has always been an underappreciated performer.
The film wants to be a Parenthood, The Family Stone, and This is Where I leave You dramedy, but doesn’t have the wit or acting chops to come close to those films. It’s overly forced narrative and disingenuous character actions don’t even make for “so good, it’s bad” Rob Schneider type comedy (at least those films have their own identity). Benjamin needed a handful of rewrites to get where it wanted to go and has a twist so obvious you could spot it after the first 10 minutes since there is clearly only one person in the film that is in crisis.
There are some good people working on Benjamin and I believe Bog Saget can continue to have a career as a director if given another opportunity. He needs to find better material and a studio to make his visions come to light.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.