SXSW Review: Barry Munday

By  · Published on March 13th, 2010

With an energetic opening that signals an upbeat and well-soundtracked tone, Barry Munday introduces us to its title character, played by Patrick Wilson. He’s a guy you’ve met before, around the office (if you’ve ever worked in one). The guy who hits on every woman in site, spends most of his lunchtimes alone and is constantly making imbecilic, inappropriate remarks. You may know him as a tool.

In that opening sequence, as we get to know this man with whom we’ll spend the next hour and a half, Patrick Wilson establishes himself in the role, disappearing perfectly into this “tool” persona. Barry is not a parody, he is not a character – he’s a real person that many of us have met. And the success of this movie – of which there is a lot – is based on his natural, honest performance. Several moments in, an unfortunate incident with a teenage girl in a movie theater and an angry father wielding a trumpet leave Barry sans-testicle. And so begins the change.

As if losing one’s ability to procreate wasn’t change enough, Barry finds out that he has inadvertently fathered a child with one of his one night stands, a homely, socially awkward girl named Ginger (Judy Greer). Finding purpose in his journey to becoming a father, Barry makes changes in his life and pursues Ginger, leading to some rather interesting (and hilarious) consequences.

The story behind Barry Munday calls back (not so far) to films like Knocked Up, Meet the Parents and even at times, the tone of Mike Judge’s Office Space. But there’s also something here that calls back to relationship comedies of the late-70s. Something that may have caught the filmmaking eye of Hal Ashby, had it been scripted a few decades earlier. Perhaps it is the unique set decorations, many of which have a retro feel to them. And perhaps it’s just the way the comedy flows and unveils its many quirks. From Billy Dee Williams as a Delorean driving insurance company president to a track-suit wearing Malcolm McDowell, the film has a lot of quirks. Luckily, it trades schmaltz for honest and receives heaps of laughs as its reward.

The anchor of it all is Patrick Wilson, whose performance is a high mark in an already impressive career. Wilson presents Munday as the office schmuck, then slowly bends him and molds him into a new man over the movie’s runtime. He’s careful though, to ensure that we always see glimpses of the man Barry started out as, so as to keep it all honest. Judy Greer is his comedic equal in this movie, with a teased-hair bout of craziness that only she can do. Her Ginger is neurotic, socially guarded and ultimately very sweet. Even through their warts, we can see characters we know and like, making it easy to root for them down the line.

The film’s only burden is it’s pacing. Just as it begins to slow down though, it is saved by a scene involving Christopher McDonald and Tenacious D collaborator Kyle Gass. An impromptu meeting of men who have experienced the loss or mutilation of their genitalia adds a touch of randomness to an already uniquely offbeat comedy. It works perfectly, serving as just the pick-me-up the film needs before it heads toward its mostly predictable, but satisfying end.

If there’s one thing to be gleaned from the effort of director Chris D’Arienzo, it’s that he has a genuinely deep love of classic comedy – and an eye for telling us a usual story in an unusual way. He’s also got an eye for assembling a cast that works well together. If he continues to make honest comedies and picking good source material, he’s got it made. For now, lets all just sit back and have a hearty laugh with this one.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)