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Nick Offerman: Movie Star?

March 14, 2013

It’s a long way from Oz: The Great and Powerful‘s potent $80 million domestic opening weekend, but the nation’s top movie—in terms of per-screen average, at least—is Nick Offerman’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, which pulled in more than $34,000 last weekend, compared to Oz‘s $20,000 average. The difference: James Franco and Co. were on nearly 4,000 screens, while the low-budget comedy Somebody opened in a single Chicago theater and is now available on VOD as well.

Joliet-born local boy made good Offerman, who’s amassed a cult following from his breakout role as mustachioed libertarian local-government employee Ron Swanson on NBC’s overrated sitcom Parks and Recreation, stars as a steakhouse waiter who mentors a coworker (the justifiably unknown Keith Poulson), despite the fact that they’re romantically attached to the same woman (Jess Weixler, another name not to remember). It’s like Rushmore, but much less.

To the extent that Offerman is amusing on Parks & Rec, it’s as deadpan counterpoint (with Aubrey Plaza) to the over-the-top comic characters played by Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt et. al. But everyone in the puzzlingly titled Somebody Up There Likes Me hits the same blasé note, and it becomes (as Rob Lowe’s chipper Chris Traeger might say) literally monotonous. Nobody in the movie—including Offerman’s real-life wife and P&R sex interest, Megan Mullally, as a shrink—seems to experience a genuine emotion, so it’s impossible to care about any of them.

Written and directed by Bob Byington (I’ve never heard of him either), Somebody runs a slender 75 minutes, yet it’s so slowly paced, it still feels overlong. Perhaps one of Offerman’s upcoming film projects—like the Sundance fave The Kings of Summer (with Community‘s Alison Brie), Lake Bell’s movie-voiceover comedy In a World…, or Diablo Cody’s directorial debut, Paradise—will better showcase his talents. Until then, his finest big-screen work will remain his slow-burn performance as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s police boss in 21 Jump Street. And that’s gotta rank pretty low on Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness.

Does Nick Offerman have what it takes to become a movie star? Post a comment!

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