A Baxter is a man that may not have the right moves or trendy clothes, but he can make a girl feel safe. He is the quintessential nice guy, the type that would never leave, cheat, or even burp at the dinner table. But since many girls quickly get bored to death by guys without an edge, these men often find themselves dumped. Elliot Sherman (Michael Showalter) identifies himself as a Baxter, a term coined by his grandmother who said, “they are the kind of guys you settle for because you can’t be with the guy you love.” That’s gotta hurt.
Elliot is a geeky accountant, with a successful business but an inactive love life. When a pretty blonde magazine editor named Caroline (Elizabeth Banks) comes into his office to work on her finances, it’s love at first sight, at least for Elliot. Something about his sweet dorkiness appeals to her (his bank account, perhaps), and the couple starts dating, leading to a quick engagement. Their bedtime activities include reading the newspaper and exchanging brief conversations, igniting about as many sparks as a box of wet matches.
A new temp is working at the office named Cecil Mills (Michelle Williams) and she has a thing for Elliot, but he is too busy fawning over his soon-to-be trophy wife to notice they are perfectly suited for each other. When they first meet, they both discover they are reading the same book—the dictionary. It’s a match made in nerd heaven, even if it Elliot would need a building to fall on him in order to realize it. Things get shaken up when Caroline’s charming ex-boyfriend Bradley (Justin Theroux) shows up to try and win her back, and Elliot becomes concerned that he can’t compete. He has good cause to worry.
The Baxter starts off promising a new spin on the romantic comedy genre, and then ends up exactly like all the others. There is a whole lot of waiting around to see who the characters will end up with, as though it isn’t obvious to anyone with eyes. Elliot is a hard person to root for, because he proves himself a worthy Baxter from the beginning. He makes it clear at the start that he would rather be with the bland attractive girl over the more average looking girl with a better personality. Who can blame girls for doing the same thing back to him?
The film is full of geeky laughs in the first third, and then gets progressively more yawn-inducing. By the last half hour, there is virtually nothing to laugh or care about. Showalter is plagued by the curse of bad timing, since his movie is a half-baked version of the fantastic 40 Year Old Virgin, including some of the same costars (Banks and Paul Rudd). What makes 40 Year Old Virgin so effective is its perfect blend of gags and heart, but The Baxter is surprisingly low on both. It's the story of a nice guy who almost deserves to finish last. Just like the star of the movie, The Baxter is likely to be dumped, and it’s easy to see why.