There is an intriguing idea behind "And Now A Word From Our Sponsor" that really never fulfills its true potential. The movie might have been a scathing indictment about the ruthlessness of the advertising arena. Or it might have been a social critique about a world in which communication has been supplanted by media. It never sinks its teeth into either target very effectively, instead shooting to be an amiable relationship piece. Although a critical mistake, the movie is still more likable than you might imagine, mainly thanks to a committed Bruce Greenwood and an appealing (and less eccentric than usual) Parker Posey. Seriously, without Greenwood's inherent charm, I think I would have absolutely loathed this movie. It's one joke, and it's never very funny. The hero of the movie is a former ad executive who wakes up one day and is only able to communicate through popular slogans. Like the savant of the classic "Being There," his innocent view of the world is entirely made up by what he has seen on TV. In this case, though, the commercials provide his language. Whereas "Being There," though, was a brilliant satire and an undeniable classic, "And Now A Word from Our Sponsor" is rather toothless overall.
We never know much about Greenwood. He was brilliant and successful, but has had an unexplained break from reality. As he awaits a spot in a long-term treatment facility, Posey storms into his life. The head of charity functions for the hospital, she has once met Greenwood and is a big fan. Improbably, she agrees to house him for a few days despite the resistance of her surly daughter. Meanwhile, Greenwood's former agency is looking to oust him and his rival (Callum Blue) wants to attain irrevocable control of the company. Through it all, Greenwood maintains a mask of pleasant indifference as he spouts familiar phrases that relate in some way (however marginally) to what is being discussed around him. Of course, he is viewed as both amusing and brilliant when proclaiming these simple truths. But it's never as convincing or as clever as you might hope. AIthough I was gently amused at times, I don't think I ever laughed out loud. There's even a misguided attempt to connect politics (ala "Being There") into the story.
I won't reveal any plot spoilers but, by the end, everyone will see the wisdom of Greenwood's pronouncements. Again, though, I just never bought it. The picture needed to be wickedly smart or savagely funny to be truly memorable. It ends up being likable enough, I suppose, but almost instantly forgettable as well. Why three stars? Does it sound like I hated "And Now A Word From Our Sponsor?" Despite my intellectual reservations, I simply liked the immersion that Greenwood displayed in his character. In other hands, this might have been insufferably precious, but Greenwood maintains a nice equilibrium. Posey is also a major selling point to ground the silliness. Even Blue is appealing in a rather underdeveloped role. The casting agent should get major kudos for elevating rather mundane material. What might have been painfully unfunny remains pleasantly engaging. Again, there are terrific ideas behind the movie. It's a great topic, it just doesn't have any bite as a final product. KGHarris, 9/13.