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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: The Wendell Baker Story

Official Website and Synopsis

www.myspace.com/thewendellbakerstory

Official Press Notes including synopsis, cast bios, and more

Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) is a good-hearted conman whose latest scam lands him in jail and alienates him from everyone he loves, including his longtime girlfriend Doreen (Eva Mendes), his best friend Reyes (Jacob Vargas), and even his devoted dog, Junior.

Eternally optimistic, Wendell makes the most of his time behind bars and vows to turn his life around. Upon release, he gets a job at the Shady Grove Retirement Hotel, where he befriends residents Boyd (Seymour Cassel), Skip (Harry Dean Stanton) and Nasher (Kris Kristofferson). Wendell's new friends help him to win back his girlfriend, while he leads them in a spirited rebellion against the hotel's evil head nurse, Neil King (Owen Wilson) and his right-hand man, McTeague (Eddie Griffin).

The movie was filmed in 2003 and edited during 2004. It played at several film festivals in 2005-2006, theatrically in 2007 and is now available on DVD.

Review

by Kevin Crossman

The Wendell Baker Story is the Wilson's attempt at remaking 1970's cinema with a twenty-first century sense of humor. The performances of the principals effectively enhance a the movie's storyline and dialogue, making Wendell Baker one of the most charming films I've seen in a long time.

This is vintage Luke Wilson. Charming, a bit clueless, but ultimately a guy who wants to do the right thing. The effectiveness of the film hinges on the audience caring for Wendell Baker, and for the most part Wilson delivers. Like the character, you want him to do the right thing.

His principal counterparts are his sometime girlfriend Doreen, played by Eva Mendes, and the evil head nurse Neil King, played by Owen Wilson. Owen does his fair share of making the movie entertaining and his take on villiany should be explored in future roles. Owen is effective in a role that is remembered as being larger than it actual is. Mendes' role doesn't require a lot of range, which good because even with the low bar she barely scrapes by. We understand why she leaves Wendell, but we don't understand why she takes up with another man.

The best performances belong to the cinematic veterans Seymour Cassel, Harry Dean Stanton, and Kris Kristofferson. They form the emotional core of the movie and Cassel in particular is extremely effective. You'll be cheering for these guys throughout the movie.

Lastly, there's a wonderful cameo from Will Ferrell. He's excellent in a limited role, but does make the most of his limited screentime.

Overall, Wendell Baker is a must see for fans of the Wilsons and all Frat Pack fans. While this is more of a straight dramedy than the farce more typical of Frat Pack fare, this modest production should not be overlooked.

****

Movie Poster

Trailers and Clips

Five clips from the movie (movies.com)

2007 version (THINKFilm) - 2:32

2005 version (Mobius) - 1:11

Photo Gallery