By the end of the summer, Danny R. McBride
will be, if he isn't already, a bankable co-star on par with the likes of Rob Corrdry and Romany Malco. He's got some prime realty in David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express and Ben Stiller
's Tropic Thunder which, coupled with a small role as Owen Wilson's buddy in Drillbit Taylor, should have him front and center in the comedy audience mindset as August draws to a close. With this comes the inevitable unearthing of a calling card: a one man show of comedic range and smirk-inducing camaraderie that a couple of fools (in this instance, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell
) think will be a good way to get the ball rolling and, possibly, make some dough.
Mr. McBride's calling card goes by the name of The Foot Fist Way, a shambling comedy that doubles as a lowbrow character study directed by Jody Hill
. McBride plays Fred Simmons, the megalomaniacal "King of the Demo" and master of Concord, North Carolina's (apparently) burgeoning martial arts scene. He owns and operates Concord Tae Kwon Do, where he shapes and molds the young and the shy with ample doses of skill and berating. A man with a propensity for flame-embroidered XL shirts and undeserved hubris, Fred goes nuts when he discovers a manila folder filled with Xerox copies of his wife Suzie's playful parts. Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic
) later reveals that she also threw in a complimentary handjob to her boss, just for goofs. Article continues below
You remember Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man?" Fred is the sort of guy who takes every single word of that tune as gospel. His only recourse from this marital infraction, besides kicking the hussy to the curb, is to pressure students, hit on prospective clients, and belittle the pudgy and untalented. It also leads him to attempt to get Tae Kwon Do legend Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (Ben Best
) to come and visit his students for a demonstration.
Best, the guy who pointed out Jonah Hill's menstrual stain in Greg Motolla's Superbad, has an equally fiendish ability with flagrant arrogance, and with McBride, he riffs with an engrossing improvisational energy. But this brings up a major folly. For all its funny moments, and there are quite a few, The Foot Fist Way isn't so much directed as it is horse-glued and scotch-taped. Blown-up to 35mm from its original 16mm print, Way has a befittingly grungy, lo-fi look that helps account for its increasingly-conventional weak spots. By the time Fred takes his wife back after she services him on the sparring mats, you've resigned yourself to the fact that you're watching a mediocre sitcom pilot rather than a film.
The Foot Fist Way also marks the maiden voyage of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell's production company, Gary Sanchez Productions, which co-produced with MTV Films. Although the chances of this turning into the next Napoleon Dynamite are unlikely, it's hard to not recognize the hopes riding on this mess of earning a cult following. A Variety reporter even suggested that it might be destined for "Midnight Movie" status. Maybe, maybe not: Worse things can and will happen this year than The Foot Fist Way being a small success.