The lead and title character played by Matt Bush in Edward Burns’ Nice Guy Johnny is just that: a nice guy who tries his best to do good by everyone in his life. Despite working at his dream job as a radio sportscaster in the Bay Area--albeit during the 2am slot--he has agreed with his fiancée (Anna Wood) to quit and accept a job being offered by his soon-to-be father-in-law. Tripping out to New York for the interview, he spends some time with his freewheeling Uncle Terry (played by the director) and takes an unscheduled trip out to the Hamptons on Long Island. It is there, however, that he meets Brooke (Kerry Bishe) a beautiful girl who encourages him to stick to doing what he loves.
If this plot seems familiar that’s because it’s been done before, and the characters don’t do much to break-out of stereotype (the strict, nagging girlfriend; the wild spirit girl who embraces youth; and the ruffle-no-feathers boy stuck in the middle). But the saving grace of the film is that it’s funny, and that’s fairly important in a comedy.
Given that he's played by the writer and the director, it should come as no shock that the best character in the film is the womanizing Terry, who is trying to get his young cousin a bit of strange while visiting the East Coast. Be it arriving late to pick up Johnny because he was getting busy some in New Jersey and had to “beat tunnel traffic” or eating the pie that Johnny got for his fiancée’s mother, Burns plays the role of sleazy asshole to perfection and certainly delivers the best one-liners of the film. Once the relationship between Johnny and Brooke takes hold Terry unfortunately fades into the background, which is a true shame. Burns, who is a regular in the indie/festival scene, hasn’t ever done any sequels or spin-offs, but there is certainly room in the film world for characters like him.
When the film isn’t making you laugh, though, it’s kind of a drag. It’s never hard to see exactly where the film is going, which only makes it seem slower in getting there. One scene in particular has Johnny run into Brooke while jogging and get an invite to a bonfire later that night. He says no, because he is loyal to his fiancée and doesn’t want to be tempted, but it’s obvious that before the end of the night he will be planting his ass in a lounge chair on the beach and having smoke blow into his face.
Nice Guy Johnny should have been a hard movie to get through, but it wasn’t. There is enough positive to distract from the tropes and clichés and the message of doing what you love. You’ll never be surprised by the plot of the film, but this isn’t an action movie or a thriller that should always keep you guessing. It’s just a small budget comedy with just enough laughs to make it entertaining.
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