The Extra Man
Why is the cowardly lion in this film?

Theatrical Release Date: 08/13/2010
Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Cast: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Celia Weston, Cathy Moriarty

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going over the pro and cons of “The Extra Man” (no, I didn’t mess up the grammar there). The pro is Kevin Kline. He does a great job of being sexist, racist, rude and crude. His jokes generally work and if it weren’t for this character, the film could kiss the point I’m awarding it goodbye. The cons are the script, the direction and pretty much everyone else in the cast (but mostly Paul Dano, John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes).

The general idea is that Dano is in search of his identity, currently testing his interest in cross dressing. He moves to New York City after being fired from a preparatory academy once his proclivities are discovered. Without much income, he’s forced to rent a room from Kevin Kline, who makes a living as a male escort for elderly, rich women. John C. Reilly lives in the building, sports a ridiculous beard and hairstyle combo, and speaks like he’s sucking helium. Katie Holmes is a radical environmentalist. Hijinks attempt to ensue.

Sadly, as much as I wanted to enjoy Kline’s eccentricities, the focus is squarely on Dano’s journey and that’s nothing but an unmitigated mess. Acting wise, it’s the same mumbly, melancholy character from any of his previous films. Any personal discovery along the way is lost amongst the awkward physical movements and monotone line deliveries. Then there’s the issue of seeing Dano in women’s clothing; he looks like a sex doll, complete with latex-like skin and a pasted expression of surprise on his face. I can’t unsee what was on-screen and trying to scrub out my eye sockets with soap only burns, it does nothing to erase my memories.

Somehow, other films like “Breakfast on Pluto“, “The Crying Game” and “Kinky Boots“, all of which feature far more cross dressing, failed to create this sensation; probably because all of those films feature good writing, great characters and incorporate that lifestyle organically into the story. Oh yeah, and they were excellent films – there’s that difference too.

I’d like to think there’s a demographic for this film but I can assure you that no friends, family or strangers will get a recommendation from me. A 1 out of 5, that point is solely given for the few laughs that Kline manages to eke out and “The Extra Man” can now go quietly into the night, never to be seen again.