In `Meet Bill' Aaron Eckhart once again expands his career repertoire with a role we're accustomed to seeing Steve Carell play. As partial as I am to both actors, it's refreshing to see him play the fumbling underdog, closer to Carell's performance in `Dan in Real Life'. Too bad this sitcom worthy movie has little else to commend it. There are original, quirky elements, but the screwball execution is spotty for laughs and disjointed in parts.
Bill is in a middle-aged rut. Dependent on his wife Jess (Elizabeth Banks), he works as head of human relations at his father-in-law's bank. Jess looks healthy. She wears workout apparel and continually tries to prod Bill to adhere to his doctor's diet, one that eschews his coveted donut fix. At work he is like a dog on a leash. Not thrilled to begin with working under his father-in-law, Bill hates it when he's proposed to join their mentor program. He meets "the kid" (Logan Lerman) he's supposed to mentor in the bathroom, where Bill helps him hide the marijuana he flushes down the toilet before his school liaison catches him. Next, not only does he have to mentor "the kid," he has to go duck hunting with his in-laws and their sponsored teens. Being an animal lover, he becomes an awful shot, but provides some of the best laughs of the movie.
Getting chubby, the hubby suspects Jess is having an affair. Planting a camera beneath a translucent hat, he catches her in adultery with a local news reporter, Chip Johnson (Timothy Olyphant). Things go from bad to worse as Bill goes after Chip and the media gets a hold of the infidelity caught on tape. With nowhere to live, Bill turns to his gay brother, Sargeant (Craig Bierko*), a sporting goods store owner, and his partner Paul (Reed Diamond) to stay. A fitness buff, Paul tries to turn Bill's life around.
Bill wants to stay in his marriage while getting out of the bank. Jess hates the surveillance and doesn't say it, but Bill's slob appearance is indicative of his care for her as well. Forming a friendship "the kid" warms up to Bill before he can reciprocate. His friend and love interest, Lucy (Jessica Alba) seems much more mature than he, but she is a great resource for Bill. Both of them take an interest in getting Bill and Jess back together.
Although I don't condone illegal drug use, I have to admit it's a clever twist to have the mentor corrupted by his young apprentice. Eckhart plays a stoner scene like a pro as he and "the kid" go rock climbing in his brother's sports' store, easily one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
For all the oddball factors, 'Meet Bill' won't ruin your evening, but it won't provide the most compelling comedy, either.
(If 'Meet Bill' and 'The Forty Year Old Virgin' are any indication, most women don't favor men's body hair. So much for the old days when a hairy chest seemed to be coveted.)
A J.P.'s Pan 2.5 *'s= Mediocre-Good/Decent
(*uncredited according to IMDb)