“Baxter” bores, leaves audience wanting more

Baxter – a noun, term for the man who is always left behind, the guy that girls will “settle” for when nothing better is around. In a world of alpha-males, this hapless fellow is the beta.

See also – the movie written by, directed and starring relative newcomer Michael Showalter (“Wet Hot American Summer”) opening this weekend.

Awkward – (adj.) See “Baxter.”

Seeking to turn the focus of the stereotypical romantic comedy that has dominated the theaters for years, Showalter attempts to show the “other guy’s” point of view, verbalizing the woes of every guy who was left at the altar, splashed by the taxi cab or was five minutes too late.

Elliott Sherman (Showalter) has been through it all. Working as a straight-laced accountant in New York City with a penchant for brisk walks and reading the dictionary, Elliott finally has a chance to break out of his former lovelorn existence when he becomes engaged to Caroline Swan (Elizabeth Banks, “Heights”), a waspy ing?nue reminiscent of the 1940s.

But once a Baxter, always a Baxter, and the pending nuptials and Elliott’s dreams of conjugal bliss are interrupted when the charismatic and handsome Bradley Lake (Justin Theroux, “Duplex”), the former love of Caroline’s life, reemerges and makes it clear he has every intention of putting the Baxter where he belongs.

Further complicating matters is Elliott’s interaction with Cecil Banks (Michelle Williams of “Dawson’s Creek”), a quirky office temp who can offer more to Elliott than he initially realizes. Elliott begins to confide more and more in Cecil about his fading relationship with Caroline – a bad move in the eyes of Elliott’s best friend Ed, played by Michael Ian Black of “I Love the 80’s,” who tells Elliott that if he “wants help, go see a doctor. If you want trouble, go see this girl.”

The result, although engineered by Showalter to shirk the same predictability of other romantic plots, still did not offer much of a shock. Most of the laughs are drawn from the standard movie bank: the comments of a flamboyantly gay wedding planner, the break-up scene with a hysterical fianc?e and the wit of Ed (Black), whose character was seriously underutilized.

While certain scenes did offer an innovative, invigorated and a certainly more realistic version of romantic life, the level of ineptness and lack of suaveness Showalter was trying to convey through his own character and the majority of the cast just come off as bumbling and scripted. In essence, Showalter did too good of a job portraying the life of a graceless, dry and conventional Baxter. Kudos to him, but it leaves the audience bored and empathizing with all those who left him once before.

In the end, “The Baxter” is most easily comparable to one’s middle school years. Best enjoyed with a group of easily amused friends, the experience had its mildly entertaining and endearing parts. However, the majority was just awkward. Although parts of you may look back on junior high with a sense of fond appreciation, it was, for the most part, tedious, and you’re just certainly glad that it’s over.

“The Baxter” is now showing in theaters nationwide.

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