The Extra Man is a hapless fiasco about Louis Ives, a nerdy Princeton meathead with a penchant for wearing women’s lingerie who travels to Manhattan looking for adventure, answers a roommate-wanted ad, and moves into a rabbit warren decorated with Christmas tree ornaments occupied by Harry Harrison, a fading gigolo and a penniless, eccentric playwright whose masterpiece was stolen by a hunchback. Louis is played by Paul Dano, a catatonic young actor with all the charisma of road kill. Henry is played by the limber, libidinous Kevin Kline, whose considerable talents are criminally wasted throughout. The film knocks itself unconscious trying to be whimsical and offbeat, but is so contrived that it is as embarrassing as it is unfunny.
Taking the young man under his wing, Henry tries to show him the ropes and advance him socially, squiring him around in a battered Buick with one door and teaching him how to sneak into the opera at intermission. But his awkward, shy protégé, devoid of self-confidence and ugly as a wooden spoon, is a bipolar misfit who prefers to enroll in a course titled “Spanking and Cross-Dressing at Recession Prices.” Occasionally, Mr. Kline earns a chuckle, painting his ankles black to look like he’s wearing new socks or barking instructions like “Never answer the door-it might be the I.R.S.” But serving cocktails of vermouth and codeine, storing his mail in the refrigerator and dancing on the beach to “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago, he’s mostly just marking time until he can fire his agent.
John C. Reilly also makes an unwise appearance as Mr. Kline’s best friend, a subway mechanic who looks like the Cowardly Lion and squeaks annoyingly in a high falsetto that sounds like a braying jackass. Mr. Kline is too good for this junk. He works himself into a fit trying to milk The Extra Man for laughs, but no movie that devotes so much screen time to a vapid milksop like Paul Dano can survive the charge of head-scratching incompetence. The last words in the film are “So. There we are.” Pause. “Where are we?” The prosecution rests.
THE EXTRA MAN
Running time 108 minutes
Written by Robert Pulcini and Jonathan Ames
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Starring Paul Dano, Kevin Kline, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly
1 Eyeball out of 4