'Barry Munday'

It's tempting, and not entirely inaccurate, to describe "Barry Munday" as "Knocked Up Lite."

It’s tempting, and not entirely inaccurate, to describe “Barry Munday” as “Knocked Up Lite.” Another seriocomic tale of a self-absorbed thirtysomething who attains maturity only after impregnating a total stranger, writer-director Chris D’Arienzo’s uneven but modestly diverting indie (based on a novel by Frank Turner Hollon) attempts to up the ante slightly by making the unplanned pregnancy the protagonist’s last best chance for fatherhood. The mix of up-and-comers and familiar faces in the cast will help attract attention at vidstores and Redbox kiosks, where the pic should quickly land after token theatrical exposure.

In the title role, Patrick Wilson is almost too convincing for his own good during the early, unappealingly exaggerated scenes in which Barry, a slackerish insurance company drone who spends most of his free time crudely hitting on just about every attractive woman in earshot.

It doesn’t help that Barry’s transparent come-on lines — which, to be fair, are sporadically effective — seem older than the golden oldies on the ’80s-skewing soundtrack. It helps even less that, throughout an uncomfortably extended stretch of exposition, D’Arienzo lays on the self-conscious quirkiness with a trowel.

When Barry has his testicles irreparably damaged by the angry father of an under-age cutie, some viewers actually may delight in his just deserts. Indeed, the newly neutered lothario doesn’t begin to generate much in the way of a rooting interest until he’s approached by Ginger (Judy Greer), a mousy young woman who claims she is carrying Barry’s child after a one-night stand he doesn’t remember anything about.

Ginger’s lack of self-esteem is repeatedly announced by her unattractive clothing and coiffure, and Greer walks a thin line between shrill and sympathetic as the unwed mother-to-be who takes even longer than the aud to warm up to Barry. There isn’t an unpredictable step or even an offbeat detour taken on the well-trod road to happily ever after. But Greer infuses her role, and the pic itself, with some welcome emotional truth, especially when dealing with demanding parents (Cybill Shepherd, Malcolm McDowell) who make little effort to hide their preference for her prettier sister (Chloe Sevigny).

Wilson becomes ingratiating after the horndog evolves into a puppy dog, and strikes a few notes of pathos when Barry has third-acts doubts about his responsibility for Ginger’s maternity. The supporting players — including Jean Smart as Barry’s mom, Billy Dee Williams as his critical boss and Colin Hanks as his heavy-metal-head best buddy — are most engaging when D’Arienzo isn’t pressing for them to try too hard.

Production values are average for an indie of this sort. To his credit, D’Arienzo — a recent Tony nominee as writer of the book for the jukebox musical “Rock of Ages” — makes some deft matches of music and mood. Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” proves to be a surprisingly felicitous choice for the generous-spirited wrap-up sequence.

Barry Munday

Production

A Stick 'N Stone/Corner Store Entertainment production in association with Traction Media. Produced by Matt Weaver, Eric Kopeloff, Mickey Barold, Stone Douglass. Executive producers, Scott Prisand, Marcos Siega, Carl Levin, Jeff Davis, Barry Habib. Directed, written by Chris D'Arienzo, based on the novel "Life Is a Strange Place" by Frank Turner Hollon.

Crew

Camera (color), Morgan Pierre Susser; editor, Joan Sobel; music, Jude Christodal; production designer, Paul Oberman; costume designer, Frank Helmer; sound, David F. Van Slyke; assistant director, Chad Rosen; casting, Mary Vernieu, JC Cantu. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Spotlight Premieres), March 13, 2010. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, Chloe Sevigny, Jean Smart, Cybill Shepherd, Malcolm McDowell, Billy Dee Williams, Colin Hanks.

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