What must it be like to lead a life as bland and disorienting as Sid Straw (Tony Hale)? His greatest escape from the mundanity of the real world is stalking a former college friend, Elizabeth Banks, on social media. Yes, that Elizabeth Banks. His world suddenly revolves around her, both through obsession and not having anything else to do with his time. A sad life indeed. We all have aspirations of hitting it big, but Eat Wheaties!, the first feature from director Scott Abramovitch, has a man so low that he merely wishes to lead some level of normalcy. That much is common, almost expected, of most leading lads.
Straw’s incompetency in social situations brings out the best in this comedy venture. So much of the modern genre comes from bumbling fools or bad-mouthed bigots swinging their ego around the room. Eat Wheaties! doesn’t have that, as it marks itself out as more a light-hearted romp through the genre than anything else. There is nothing within that feels biting or cruel, but nor is there anything that will allow us to connect with the characters. Typically tired of the horrid old world, and even more fatigued of having to spend time with Straw, the comedy does not become mean-spirited, mainly because it is hard not to disagree with their actions. Hale is great, but his role offers him little room to flourish as someone the audiences can connect with.
A social media-shy oddball finds his way onto Facebook and all those serotonin-stealing applications to co-chair his college reunion. That soon slips away, forgotten about as this strange individual stalks his former college friends. Sid has notes of Michael Scott from The Office. He has an awkward personality, says the wrong thing at the right time, and just feels a bit uncomfortable. Hale shines through with that style, though, and it removes him far enough from the Arrested Development phase of his career, but close enough to what made him so good there. Oddities of life are hard to adapt to the big screen. They must blur the likeability of a regular protagonist with the disgust we hold for those inferior to us in the societal food chain. Doing so is not difficult when Sid is brought front and centre. Eat Wheaties! struggles in getting the balance between hate and acceptance, but Hale, alongside Sarah Chalke and Alan Tudyk in remarkable supporting roles, help Straw feel more like a character than a caricature.
It is key that we have breaks from Hale’s slimy leading man. Strong casting and fluid style makes Eat Wheaties! a nice enough time. Nice notes of comedy linger throughout, but there is only so much leniency we can take with a character so obsessed with an individual. A creep indeed. Hale brings it to life well, but Abramovitch understands the importance of time spent away from this character, acknowledging the weird behaviour, and reminding us it is acceptable to laugh at the freaks and beasts we disagree with. Comedy is key, and Eat Wheaties! has enough of that to roll with the punches, overcome the slower-paced moments, and deliver a piece that feels original, charming, and somewhat fresh.