For the sake of transparency, I want to start by making it clear that I am not the ideal audience for this film. While Eat Wheaties! may aspire to being a humorous commentary on popular culture and the cult of celebrity, I found the social critique rather thin. In the end, Eat Wheaties! came a bit too close to making light of stalking and harassment for my taste. There are plenty of people out there who do not believe victims when they report stalking behaviour; Eat Wheaties! felt to me like it reinforced the idea that harassment isn’t real and that men who are accused of such actions are simply misunderstood “nice guys” who need to be given a chance. This reading is one-hundred percent a product of my own biases, and I am going to do my best to set it aside for the remainder of this review.
Based on the novel The Locklear Letters by Michael Kun, Scott Abramovitch’s cringy comedy Eat Wheaties! is the story of Sid Straw (Tony Hale), an awkward and socially incompetent middle-aged misfit whose rather doldrum life begins to unravel after he unintentionally stalks a female celebrity he knew in college. Sid’s efforts to obtain an autographed photo from his former friend ignite the wrath of her agent, Frankie (Sarah Chalke), and Sid finds himself scrambling to prove to everyone around him that his connection to the celebrity is real – and not just a figment of his desperate imagination.
At certain points, Eat Wheaties! feels a bit under-baked and inconsistent in tone and theme. I frequently had the impression that I was watching a series of loosely connected comedy sketches, albeit entertaining ones, rather than a cohesive narrative. Featuring the likes of Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya, Da 5 Bloods, Richard Jewel), Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale, TV’s Firefly and Arrested Development), Danielle Brooks (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black), Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door, House of Wax), and David Walton (TV’s New Girl), there’s no shortage of talent here. While there are no weak performances, most of the secondary characters are underdeveloped. The focus is on moving from one humourous scene to another, rather than building characters and relationships.
Tony Hale manages to stand out as Sid. By this point in his career, it is no secret that Hale tends to gravitate toward this kind of character – men who are so needy and desperate that it makes everyone around them profoundly uncomfortable. What makes Sid particularly appealing, however, is his vulnerability. Hale’s charisma makes Sid likeable, even when he probably shouldn’t be, and convinces us to root for him against the odds. Awkward humour is hard to get right, but Hale is a master.
The emotional arc of the story is reasonably executed, but predictable. Hale’s performance does much of the heavy lifting. The musical score and editing are also clearly orchestrated to elicit an emotional response from the audience, and they are mostly successful. There isn’t a lot of subtlety here, however, and there are points when it all feels a bit overdone – especially in the third act where the story opts for the path of least resistance. That said, for all its flaws, Eat Wheaties! is laugh-out-loud funny (if cringy, uncomfortable humour is your thing) and Hale brings humanity and depth to a character that could be extremely off putting if it weren’t for his considerable skill.
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