CAST: Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening, Rainn Wilson, Larry Wilmore, Jake McDorman, Uly Schlesinger, Michael McKean, Anna Camp, Ann Harada, Devyn McDowell
RUNNING TIME: 96 mins
BASICALLY…: A middle-aged couple (Cranston and Bening) use a loophole to win millions on the lottery…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Paramount+ finally launched in the UK this week, and among the surprisingly rich collection of movies and shows on offer (I was pleasantly surprised to find the likes of American Beauty, Saturday Night Fever and all three Naked Gun movies on there) is a bunch of new and exclusive originals, some of which you might see a review or two for in the near future. One of these new Paramount+ originals is Jerry and Marge Go Large, a movie which certainly feels like it belongs on a streaming service, because a movie which is as blandly middle-of-the-road as this would most certainly not have lasted that long in cinemas.
Based on actual events, the film is about – well, duh – Jerry (Bryan Cranston) and Marge (Annette Bening), a middle-aged couple living in a somewhat rundown small town in Michigan. Jerry, a lifelong math whizz, has just retired for his 40-odd year job at a factory, and is struggling to settle into the retirement lifestyle – that is, until he spots a mathematic loophole in the local Winfall lottery system, wherein he could buy countless tickets and double his winnings in one go. Both he and Marge then set out to take advantage of the oversight, spending their savings on a lot of lottery tickets and then counting them up to earn hundreds of thousands in winnings. The couple then decides to put their earnings to good use, setting up a company wherein their fellow townsfolk buy shares and subsequently get enough money to fix up the town and restore it to its former glory. However, when they have to deal with a snotty Harvard betting club that’s standing in their way, Jerry and Marge must try to go against the odds and help their friends out in whatever way they can.
Jerry and Marge Go Large is one of those films where you can certainly tell that the filmmakers had good intentions in telling this story, but the execution is so light and inoffensive that it hardly musters up enough of a solid reason to make you care about it. For director David Frankel, it’s admittedly a step up from his much more misguided previous feature Collateral Beauty, but there’s nothing remotely interesting about this film which gives this real-life story a spark of life, which Frankel’s all-too muted direction and Brad Copeland’s conventional script plays far too safe for its own good. You never feel like there’s much at stake here, since the characters do not seem to mind so much about blowing hundreds of thousands on lottery tickets that may or may not amount to big winnings (they seem fairly well off even before they start their scheme), while the villainous rich college student is such a cartoonish Revenge of the Nerds style bad guy that he barely poses a genuine threat. Much of the humour is the type you’d find on a standard TV sitcom, with dialogue and line deliveries that wouldn’t be out of place on your average episode of Full House, and no matter how hard the actors in this movie try, this script just isn’t funny enough to communicate the wildness of this true story.
There will be some odd inconsistencies in the storytelling which often feel randomly placed (Rainn Wilson will suddenly chime in with bookending narration, which seems as though it was added later in post-production instead of actually being a part of this script), but other than that there just isn’t enough to give Jerry and Marge Go Large a worthwhile entertainment factor. For a movie with that title, it still is surprising how miniscule and inconsequential it feels, as such little time is put into this community and why it’s apparently worth saving that you just do not buy why this couple is so set on helping it, because at no point is there anything that tells you about this town’s charms or its interesting inhabitants. They might know enough about it to help out, but the audience doesn’t, and if they are never given a reason to care about this place and its people, then the whole moral crux that this film prides itself on won’t stay up.
Watching this movie was just like watching something unimportant happen right in front of my eyes, like a guy painting a fence, or a gardener picking flowers. The whole time, I was struggling to hold interest in something which on paper should have at least been a worthwhile depiction of this interesting enough story, but ultimately I just sat there mostly bored, not getting into the plot, the characters, the humour, or even the phenomenally uninspired filmmaking. It makes total sense why this movie would be sent straight to streaming, because this is exactly the kind of movie that you would feel compelled to play with your phone while it plays in the background.
By no means is it the worst thing you could be watching or even streaming right now, but it’s certainly one of the most forgettable options on this brand-new service.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Jerry and Marge Go Large is a blandly forgettable depiction of an interesting real-life story, which relies so heavily on inconsequential plotting, thin characters, and sitcom-level humour that it barely musters up any interest-holding entertainment which feels worthy of on-screen talent like Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening.