5-Word 365 #339 – The Wendell Baker Story

Here’s day two of my impromptu Eva Mendes retrospective.

The Wendell Baker StoryWendell-poster

Let’s all go to Austin

Wendell Baker is a very friendly and personable but unsuccessful criminal. After doing time for ID fraud, he is set up with a job at the Shady Grove retirement hotel as part of his parole. While befriending the Shady Grove residents, Wendell uncovers a devious plan concocted by the hotel’s head nurse Neil, to ship the residents off to work on his mother’s farm and collect all their benefits! Can Wendell save the day? Can he tell his girlfriend that he loves her? Will Boyd and Skip ever manage to get laid again? Stay tuned to find out.

The Wendell Baker Story is a gentle, low-key comedy that in anyone else’s hands would be little more than a vanity project. The inherent charm and likability of the Wilson brothers however makes it something that you just can’t help but enjoy. Written by Luke, directed by Luke and Andrew, and starring Luke (as Wendell) and Owen (as Neil), this is truly a family enterprise. Luke plays Wendell as so laid-back to be almost horizontal; luckily the supporting cast are a bit more excitable, particularly Seymour Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton as Boyd and Skip, the horny old coots who fall in with Wendell’s plans. Owen Wilson is actually pretty creepy as the villainous Neil, with some back up from Eddie Griffin.

Welcome to Con Air. Dammit, sorry, wrong movie.

Welcome to Con Air. Dammit, sorry, wrong movie.

With a movie like this, the actual plot becomes almost secondary to the idea of the characters just interacting and finding themselves in some weird situations. There are a few laughs to be had, particularly whenever Cassel and Stanton are on the screen. The older half of the cast also create some moments of genuine pathos. The scene where Kris Kristofferson says farewell to Wendell almost brought a single tear to my eye. Saying that though, I should probably mention that I’m a soppy git.

The soundtrack assembled for the flick is a winner from start to finish. The movie embraces its Texas roots and packs in some classic country songs from Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Bob Dylan and more. The only thing missing in fact is a bit of Glen Campbell.

What's that? Luke Wilson wrote the film himself? Gee, I never would have guessed.

What’s that? Luke Wilson wrote the film himself? Gee, I never would have guessed.

I saw a few comments online that referred to this as one of the worst movies of the year. Richard Roeper actually went so far as to call it one of the worst movies he had ever seen. That is a quite patently ridiculous statement. A film that stars Harry Dean Stanton, Kris Kristofferson and Eva Mendes cannot be the worst film ever. It’s just not possible. It probably won’t make the “1000 Movies To See Before You Die” book, but the combination of an easy-going central performance surrounded by a veritable phalanx of top-drawer character actors and a couple of A-list comedy stars results in a sweet little film that you can just relax into. I reckon this will be one that I’m going to come back to from time to time.


  1. guysfilmquest · December 5, 2012

    I enjoyed the film. Certainly wasn’t Luke Wilson’s best, and I probably expected too much from the potential chemistry between he and Owen (since Bottle Rocket’s my favorite film).

    • Ryan McNeely · December 6, 2012

      I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I still haven’t seen Bottle Rocket! I keep meaning to and then I remember that I haven’t enjoyed any of the other Wes Anderson movies I’ve sat through.

  2. mistylayne · December 6, 2012

    Sounds utterly charming. 🙂 I might add it to my “Sick Day” queue.

    • Ryan McNeely · December 7, 2012

      That’s the perfect place for it, I reckon.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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