Next weekend, if you’re not looking to get high with Dumbo (you know, because he flies!) there’s always the alternative to catch Matthew McConaughey play a middle-aged stoner / poet named Moondog in the upcoming release The Beach Bum. The filmmaker who brought you James Franco in cornrows and platinum teeth in 2012’s Spring Breakers is back with another neon bright flick about excess and hedonism.
Following The Beach Bum’s recent premiere at SXSW, the movie isn’t lighting a fire in most critics. In fact, many reviews sound like a sobering recount of a regretful crazy night out. Check out what the New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski paint a brief picture of the movie from his one-star review:
The one very funny scene is provided by Martin Lawrence as a dolphin spotting boat tour guide who’s had ‘only four deaths on my watch in eight years’ and owns a coke-addicted parrot. That bit is the height of this film’s sophistication.
Wow, there you have it! This detail is probably a good gauge of what to expect from the stoner comedy set in Florida and starring Martin Lawrence, in addition to Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron (who dons panini-inspired facial hair), Jonah Hill and Isla Fisher. Don’t sign up for The Beach Bum next weekend if is kind of plot point doesn’t amuse. The reviewer also noted that the movie is so deplorable that he wanted to punch McConaughey’s character in the face.
Rolling Stone’s David Fear took to his review to also recount some of the wildness of The Beach Bum, describing that it’s all about McConaughey having a good time but that’s pretty much it. In his words:
The Beach Bum is not about plot. It’s about having the good taste to live like trash, or maybe the bad taste to live really well and NGAF… It’s about giving McConaughey the space to really cut loose, and we do mean loose — the actor is constantly engaging in some sort of funky, rubber-limbed dancing, or faux-drunkenly breezing through his scenes, or passed out ‘n’ drooling.
Critics don’t seem to be allergic to a good party either, it’s the way The Beach Bum does it that seems to bother them. According to Dan Caffrey of Consequence of Sound, early in the movie he already grew tired of Moondog’s antics of pool parties, weed-smoking and living by his own rules. Here’s what he had to say about the movie:
...it’s the same sun-baked atmosphere, tired stoner humor, and fortune-cookie platitudes from Moondog, over and over and over. His outlook and musings never evolve or amplify; they flatline almost as soon as the movie begins. Contrary to what everyone in his world seems to believe, he’s exhausting to hang out with before long.
Harmony Korine’s movies do tend to have this effect on audiences. The filmmaker angered critics with his 1997 debut Gummo and Spring Breakers certainly divided people do to its niche provocativeness that allowed Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens to shed their clean on screen presence.
The movie didn’t completely fall flat for some viewers. Variety’s Peter Debruge found McConaughey’s performance to be a fun take on his persona. Here’s what he said:
Moondog feels less like a transformation than a gross exaggeration of McConaughey’s preexisting off-screen persona: the blissed-out, bongo-playing stoner, with the anything-goes attitude and dog-whistle laugh. But more than that, the star is clearly having such a blast inhabiting this character, it doesn’t actually seem like work.
Back in the day, the actor actually was arrested for causing too much noise in his home playing the bongos naked for his neighbors to handle so The Beach Bum can play sort of as an exaggerated take on the actor known as a laid-back beach bum himself. The actor has given some memorable performances before and The Guardian’s Kristy Puchko was among the few who found some depth in McConaughey’s performance. In her words:
Moondog 'just keeps living' – McConaughey’s personal motto. But in quiet closeups, McConaughey reveals the emotional labor behind this choice. We see Moondog take in a situation, a flirtation, a farewell and see him process the pain of it. Then he slides into something sweeter – a pool, a puff, a holiday, or a hook-up. While he laughs and dances and makes his mirth contagious, the ache sinks beneath the surface. Moondog becomes a metaphor for the human condition, where we are painfully aware of the horrors of life and our own mortality, yet persevere to find joy anyway. In that way, The Beach Bum is glorious inspiration. But more than that it is a spirited sermon.
Looks like the actor does an alright, alright, alright job of bringing some weight to the carefree character in her eyes. Overall, The Beach Bum has a 53% Tomatometer score and from these reviews I’d say the enjoyment of the movie will really depend on if the viewer is up for sitting through a lot of crazy parties, over the top moments from McConaughey and … a coke-addicted parrot.
The Beach Bum arrives in theaters on March 29. Will you be checking it out?