Who was this movie made for? And more importantly, why was it made at all? "Joe Somebody," directed by John Pasquin (1997's "Jungle2Jungle"), is the type of feeble, PG-rated mainstream comedy so uninteresting and overflowing with lame jokes that it is sure to bore viewers of every age, shape, and size. The story--or lack thereof--proves almost defunct as the precious minutes of the running time tick by at a terribly lugubrious rate.
Joe Scheffer (Tim Allen) is a somewhat timid, recently divorced video communications specialist thrust into a mid-life crisis when he is physically assaulted by a nasty coworker (Patrick Warburton) in front of his 12-year-old daughter, Natalie (Hayden Panettiere). With his self-esteem significantly shrunk by the incident, Joe decides he is tired of being pushed around, as he sets out to change his image and take a one-on-one self-defense class by a former action star (James Belushi). Sure enough, he begins receiving more respect from his colleagues, save for the beautiful Meg (Julie Bowen), who doesn't like who he is becoming.
At its heart, "Joe Somebody" would like to be a self-empowerment fantasy about a man who learns that physically fighting and positively standing up for himself are two entirely different things. As directed in a confused manner by John Pasquin, this moral is all but lost as the narrative contradicts itself at every turn. The movie spends an inordinately large amount of time presenting the lengths Joe goes to in order to become a good fighter, only to pull the rug out from underneath the last 85 minutes with a wimpy, cornball finale.
Tim Allen (1999's "Galaxy Quest") slums his way through the movie. As a starring vehicle for him, it is decidedly weak, featuring no flare, no cleverness, and no point. Allen's previous comic work isn't even put to good use, as there is nary a funny scene to be found.
The relationships between Joe and Meg, and Joe and Natalie, fare better, but are given such slapdash screen time amidst the shallow character-transformation plot that they fail to rise above being marginally adequate. Hayden Panettiere (2000's "Remember the Titans
") is a cute, non-cloying child who has definite acting talent, but is shortchanged by the feuding storylines that take up too much time. The same goes for Julie Bowen (1996's "Happy Gilmore"), as the object of Joe's affection, Meg. Their budding romance is played out in a low-key style that works some of the time (such as a scene set in a bar), but remains bland.
The word, "bland," is actually the best way to describe "Joe Somebody." A lackadaisical misfire, it is precisely the kind of film usually released during the more appropriate, dead-zone movie month of January. In Joe's quest to become a somebody, he never breaks free from being a nobody. And neither does this listless cinematic dud.
©2001 by Dustin Putman