Those who are fans of the cult sketch comedy series "The State" will be familiar with Michael Showalter, one of the main stars of that series. The former "State" star stars, wrote and directed this indie romantic comedy, which has a particular, oddball sense of timing and humor that brings some humor out of lines and situations that wouldn't otherwise be - in my opinion - that funny on the page.
Showalter stars as Elliot Sherman, a self-described "Baxter" (the nice, average guy who the girl settles for while waiting for the star to sweep her off her feet) who is about to get married to the girl of his dreams (Elizabeth Banks, who also made an appearance in "40-Year-Old Virgin" last Summer) when her former boyfriend (Justin Therox) re-enters the picture and everything begins to fall apart. Meanwhile, Elliot has become friends with new temp worker Cecil (Michelle Williams), who shares his love for reading the dictionary.
Despite being conventional at it's core - aside from taking the viewpoint of the guy who gets left at the altar, it's a movie about the guy finally realizing the right girl has already been there - "The Baxter" plays it off-center enough to keep it fresh, engaging and unexpectedly funny. I never felt like this was a big laugh-out-loud movie, but it kept consistently catching me with little moments that I found amusing or oddball lines that got chuckles.
The performances also go a long way towards giving the picture a boost. Michelle Williams, who I thought was the best thing about "Dawson's Creek", is once again winning in this role. Williams continues to be a subtle actress who manages to convey emotion in a look. She's funny at times here (see her in the background in a scene where the Banks character has come home and she's trying to hide; it's a too-familiar scene, but there are some funny bits), and yet she's really almost touching in other scenes. Showalter has a weirdly funny timing that results in him being amusing just to watch in some scenes. Therox, Banks and Paul Rudd are funny in supporting roles.
The humor has a few moments that miss and the movie goes a little longer than the story needs, but "The Baxter" is a likable, offbeat comedy with heart that I liked. I don't know how long it'll stick in my memory, but I at least found it mostly enjoyable throughout its 91-minute running time.
VIDEO: "The Baxter" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is mostly solid, as despite a few soft moments, the picture appears crisp and well-defined. The picture is brought down a notch by some moments of edge enhancement, but otherwise, the picture appeared smooth and clean. Colors looked natural and nicely presented, with pleasing saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "The Baxter" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Aside from a couple of music tracks (such as a rather bass-heavy one in a club scene), this is a dialogue-driven piece. It's a pretty minimal audio presentation, but it works for the movie.
EXTRAS: Previews for other titles from the studio and a very brief gag reel.
Final Thoughts: Sweet (without being sappy), oddball and funny, "The Baxter" doesn't always work, but it's a mostly entertaining effort from Showalter and cast that will hopefully get the audience it deserves now that it's on DVD. Those looking for a more quirky date night rental should give it a look.