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. They then ceased their 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. Attempting to go 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 seven 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 Yet, even the use of this product placement is outdated.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 so poorly executed. 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, it’s an exercise in Simon Says. Repeating the same sentence that was just uttered, so the story remains neutral. This may make for good constructive conversation. Though, 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, along with adding an out of nowhere 2-minute monologue about vaginas, is one thing. Adding a tone-deaf crack about “cutting” oneself is tasteless. It’s as if they are telling their audience to 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 can play an overly earnest father. Like Danny Tanner. Or even a filthy version of his alter-ego stand-up career like guest spots in Entourage. He was a poor choice to put in the lead role. He doesn’t have the acting chops as a father overwrought with the worry of his son and his family life falling apart. This is asking too much of him here.
I do recognize casting himself is not all about ego. This probably saved the production some money so he could direct. 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. He 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. The problem is it doesn’t have the wit or acting chops to come close to those films. Its 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 was in need of a handful of immediate rewrites to get where it wanted to go. It has a twist so obvious you could spot it after the first 10 minutes since there is clearly only one person in the film in crisis.
Some good people are working on Benjamin. I even 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.