30 Minutes or Less
So what do you call a stoner comedy where nobody really gets stoned? I think we might finally need to come up with a new classification to handle movies like 30 Minutes or Less, which seems not to be an isolated event. It certainly feels like a stoner comedy; it’s got Danny McBride, for one, and Nick Swardson and Aziz Ansari have some cred in the genre as well. It’s neither zany nor scatological, but it’s also definitely not adult and it carries no message. What it is, though, is funny.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, breaking far out of the awkward-nerd typecast trap) is in his mid 20s and is still a minimum-wage pizza delivery driver in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His best friend Chet (Ansari) has gotten promoted to a full-time teaching position, and Chet’s sister Katie (Dilshad Vadsaria) — on whom Nick has a major crush — is moving off to Atlanta to climb the management ranks at a Four Seasons. All of which sort of leaves Nick’s life going nowhere.
On the other side of town, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) don’t even have a pizza delivery job. They basically live off of Dwayne’s ex-military father (Fred Ward), who won millions in the lottery and has little love for his layabout son. But they have fun in an old scrapyard, dreaming big and blowing up watermelons to pass the time. Until one day a stripper puts it into Dwayne’s head to kill his father, and puts him in contact with a guy from Detroit (Michael Peña) who will do the job for a hundred thousand dollars. If they can get that hundred grand, they can kill Dwayne’s father and get his money, with which they can open up a tanning salon as a front for a prostitution business. Of course, despite the fact that he’s always complaining about his son’s lack of initiative they can’t just ask Dwayne’s father to go in on the business in the first place because then there wouldn’t be a movie.
So Dwayne and Travis order a pizza and kidnap the driver — Nick, naturally — when he shows up at the scrapyard in the middle of nowhere. They knock him out and strap one of their homemade bombs to his chest, telling him that he has ten hours to rob a bank and get them the money before the vest blows up. Hijinks, naturally, ensue.
Eisenberg and Ansari are great together, and they really pull off their characters’ arc well. McBride and Swardson also play nicely off of each other, providing most of the lowbrow stuff, which they’re both good at. And Peña just nails his part, small though it may be.
Look, is this high art? no. Is the plot airtight? no. Is it the funniest movie around? no. This is a silly comedy with a great rhythm that doesn’t have to humiliate its cast to get laughs. It’s a fluff piece that will easily provide some nice, uncomplicated laughs. It’s a stoner comedy where nobody — except maybe some people in the audience — is stoned.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.