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Bill

If this "Bill" ever arrives, duck out on it. A labored screwball comedy about disenchanted people of privilege yearning for fulfillment, pic is full of leaden hijinx directed and played with all the subtlety of a myocardial infarction.

With:
With: Aaron Eckhart, Jessica Alba, Elizabeth Banks, Timothy Olyphant, Logan Lerman, Holmes Osbourne, Craig Bierko, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Todd Louiso.

If this “Bill” ever arrives, duck out on it. A labored screwball comedy about disenchanted people of privilege yearning for fulfillment, pic is full of leaden hijinx directed and played with all the subtlety of a myocardial infarction. Overseas sales might amount to something on the reps of leads Aaron Eckhart and Jessica Alba, but in local joints, this is one tab that’s going to have trouble getting picked up by anybody.

Trapped in a marriage both upscale and terminally polite, self-doubting nice guy Bill (Eckhart) works as the largely useless director of human resources at the bank run by his clueless father-in-law (Holmes Osborne). What’s worse, his two-faced wife, Jess (Elizabeth Banks), thinks nothing of cheating on him with blow-dried local TV reporter Chip Johnson (Timothy Olyphant).

When he’s roped into mentoring a teenage private-school student (Logan Lerman), Bill is reluctantly enabled by the kid, a confident, wisecracking con artist known only as the Kid. For his part, the pint-sized Lothario is smitten with lingerie cashier Lucy (Jessica Alba), who finds his grown-up antics amusing.

Meanwhile, Bill is also trying to make a good impression on doughnut company reps Jane and Jim Whittman (Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis), with an eye toward segueing from his bank post to head of a local franchise. “Go for the life you want,” Bill urges the Kid, but only after he’s suffered humiliation after humiliation at the hands of family and friends.

Husband-and-wife helmers Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann make all the wrong choices, from the grimacing they’ve encouraged their large (and largely wasted) cast to indulge in, to the musical riffs that signal each and every dramatic beat. Eckhart summons faint echoes of Cary Grant in his willingness to dumb down, while Alba has precious little to do except flash that sunny smile.

Tech package is crisp, with St. Louis-area locations nicely captured by HD vid lensing indistinguishable from 35mm film at digital projection caught. Production company GreeneStreet Films has a weakness for unfunny comedies, having foisted the equally intolerable “The Pleasure of Your Company” on Toronto fest’s Special Presentations sidebar last year.

Bill

Production: A GreeneStreet Films production. (International sales: GreeneStreet Intl., Beverly Hills.) Produced by John Penotti, Fisher Stevens, Matthew Rowland. Executive producers, Tim Williams, Aaron Eckhart. Directed by Melisa Wallack, Bernie Goldmann. Screenplay, Wallack.

Crew: Camera, Peter Collister; editors, Greg Hayden, Nick Moore; music, Edward Shearmur; production designer, Bruce Curtis; costume designer, Mari-An Ceo; sound (Dolby Digital), Avram Gold. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 12, 2007. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: With: Aaron Eckhart, Jessica Alba, Elizabeth Banks, Timothy Olyphant, Logan Lerman, Holmes Osbourne, Craig Bierko, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Todd Louiso.

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