A married couple’s attempt to get away from their digital life predictably devolves into backwoods shenanigans. Unplugging’s brief slivers of comedy don’t compensate for a woefully thin script. The premise is milked dry early in the second act. Unplugging then uses goofy interactions with cardboard characters as lame filler material. Eva Longoria and Matt Walsh have believable chemistry with each other and make the film watchable on a basic level, but amateurish direction wastes the talent of its veteran leads.
In suburban Chicago, Dan (Walsh) and Jeanine (Longoria) Dewerson have lost the sparkle in their relationship. Jeanine is a workaholic addicted to her cell phone and computer. Dan has flamed out of corporate life. He spends his days making artisanal hot sauce in their garage. They both ignore their teenage daughter (Hala Finley), plodding daily as slaves to the digital grind.
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Dan comes to a realization after the tragic loss of Juan (Al Madrigal), his UPS delivery man and only friend. He and Jeanine have to make a change and reconnect before it’s too late. Dan doesn’t know that Jeanine’s job is forcing her on a sabbatical. Her relentless work ethic drives colleagues crazy. Dan rents a remote Indiana cabin for a long weekend. Their hope for quality time doesn’t go nearly as planned. Power outages, weird townies, and a barrage of flying drones turn their respite into an utter disaster.
Comedy in Unplugging
Let’s start with what’s actually funny. Walsh has superb comedic timing. He’s made a career of reacting to bizarre situations in memorable roles in Bad Santa, Role Models, The Hangover, and Veep. Unplugging isn’t remotely on that level. He props up the film as the dart board that deals with the barrage of nutters. Keith David, Lea Thompson, and Johnny Pemberton have supporting roles as the local jerks. These scenes elicit minor chuckles as Walsh plays off their odd and rude behavior.
Walsh then pivots as a loving husband to a dedicated wife. Longoria plays “the straight man” for the duo. She’s a reasonable woman trying to support her family. They’re convincing as a long-term couple working to keep their fire burning. If only Unplugging had a better script to build on their relationship. Walsh co-wrote the script responsibility for its failures. There was so much more that could have been done in this setting. A gag has Jeanine eating too many marijuana edibles. What starts off as a promising opportunity for endearing humor goes nowhere.
Debra Neil-Fisher has been one of Hollywood’s best-known editors for decades. She’s worked on everything from Austin Powers to Sonic the Hedgehog. Unplugging is her feature directorial debut. She, unfortunately, strikes out in her first at-bat. The narrative falls apart. The lead characters bumble around the woods for a torturously slow third act. Neil-Fisher cobbles together awkward scenes that have no cinematic flow. It’s a disjointed approach that’s truly surprising from such an accomplished filmmaker. Unplugging fizzles out badly. I have no doubt that audiences will be peeking at their cell phones.
Unplugging is a production of Traveling Picture Show Company, Productivity Media, Inner Child Productions, and Roxwell Films. It is currently in theaters with a VOD release on April 29th from Vertical Entertainment.
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Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood’s greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.
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