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David Duchovny’s “Goats”: How Baaaad Is It?

August 14, 2012

Goats make a lot of noise, but Goats certainly didn’t. The indie dramedy starring David Duchovny as a pothead “goat trekker” was filmed more than two years ago but received a quiet release in only a handful of theaters as well as on VOD last weekend. (The film’s distributor, Image Entertainment, didn’t bother to report grosses.) So is Goats a turkey, or just stranger than anything Duchovny ever investigated on The X-Files?

The answer is: both, though it’s not Duchovny’s fault. He seems to be having a ball as Javier, aka Goat Man, a hirsute landscaper and pool cleaner who lives with the titular creatures on the property of a wealthy Tucson hippie (Vera Farmiga), but he’s the only one who’s having any fun, including the audience. Goats is not quite a comedy—it’s more funny strange than funny ha-ha—and it’s not dramatic enough to be a drama. It just… is. Kinda like Goat Man.

Adapted by Mark Poirer (Smart People) from his own novel, Goats is ostensibly a coming-of-age story about Ellis (The Good Wife‘s Graham Phillips), a 15-year-old who leaves his mother’s Southwestern digs to attend the snooty East Coast prep school from which his absentee father (Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell) graduated. Here’s the problem with the movie—though he’s surrounded by interesting performers (Keri Russell as his dad’s pregnant new wife, Anthony Anderson as the school’s track coach, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s daughter Dakota Johnson as a townie love interest), Phillips is a blank slate. So it’s hard to care about him, especially since nothing particularly interesting happens to him.

He gets into a fight with his roommate. His bike is stolen. He waits for a package of pot to be delivered from Goat Man, whom he considers more of a father than his own dad. None of this is energetically rendered by first-time director Christopher Neil, a veteran dialogue coach who was hired by George Lucas to work with the actors on the emotional content of Revenge of the Sith (which should give you an idea of how dramatically inert this movie is).

The poky Goats is surely a change of pace from Duchovny’s tiresome role as a hedonistic novelist on Showtime’s Californication, although the film does feature its own gratuitous nudity. Most notably, Weeds/Animal Practice vet Justin Kirk (as Farmiga’s mooching-artist lover) exposes one of his testicles—twice. It’s ironic, because what Goats really could’ve used was more balls.

After flops like Playing God, Evolution and Full Frontal, should David Duchovny stick to the small screen? Post a comment!

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