Taking the pall out of The Pallbearer


I know I’m about eleven years late, but I really wasn’t in a particular hurry to see The Pallbearer, David Schwimmer’s Graduate knock-off. (After all, it stars David Schwimmer.) But there was nothing better on TV, so I gave it a look. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since the title is indicative of death, but the tone was astonishingly funereal. It kind of reminded me of the old sitcom Family Affair, which was technically a comedy but always had this somber air as though someone on the set had just died. (Even the canned laughter seemed weak and half-hearted.) Schwimmer’s at his most hangdog, and I’m not sure if it’s a deliberate gag, but there’s a scene where he’s sitting in his car in his garage with the motor idling that looks like he trying to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Gwyneth Paltrow is in her full-blown Royal Tenenbaums clinical depression mode. Barbara Hershey is heartbreaking as a grieving mother shattered by her son’s loss and vulnerably reaching out for human contact to ease her pain. And, of course, Michael Rapaport fails to add any laughs, as usual.* In fact, there’s hardly any jokes in the film. It’s barely even a comedy at all. It’s closer in tone to a drama, and a dark, depressing, devastating feel-bad-movie-of-the-year kind of drama, at that.

But what I do find hilarious about The Pallbearer is this marketing copy I found at this website gamely trying to position it as a madcap screwball comedy. The plot outline is technically correct, yet it could not possibly be more misleading:

Hot star David Schwimmer (TV’s FRIENDS) makes a hilarious big-screen debut in this outrageous comedy hit! As Tom Thompson, the popular star plays a befuddled college grad whose social life is practically D.O.A. … that is, until he’s asked to be a pallbearer at the funeral of a classmate he can’t remember! Comic chaos follows as Tom fends off the seductive advances of the grieving mother (Barbara Hershey — BEACHES), and tries desperately to find the nerve to ask out the beautiful girl of his dreams (Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow, Best Actress, 1998, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) — who can’t remember him!

You’d think it was 90 minutes of Barbara Hershey chasing David Schwimmer around a table. It’s like a prose version of the trailer mash-up re-cutting The Shining as a warm-hearted family romp. And come to think of it, from what I remember of the commercials for The Pallbearer, in order to get people into theatres, they really had to slice up the footage to make it look something like a comedy in which David Schwimmer drops caskets&#8212with hilarious results!

* Side note: In a recent column, ESPN’s “The Sports Guy”, Bill Simmons, mentions his wife fuming about nearly running over Michael Rapaport: “Rapaport lives in our neighborhood and somehow morphed into the Sports Gal’s ongoing archnemesis. Why? Because of his inability to look up while crossing streets because he’s too busy talking on his cell phone and acting like “he’s a hot s—” (her words). Throw in his general douchey demeanor and his New York roots and he’s about three more “not looking when he’s walking” moments away from getting pancaked by my PMS-ing wife.” I can only say this: Do it, Sports Gal! Kill Michael Rapaport! Do whatever it takes to get him off my television. Don’t worry about being charged with vehicular manslaughter. If you mow down the star of The War at Home at your home, it’s automatically an action undertaken in wartime and therefore not punishable. Hell, they’ll probably pin a medal on you.

4 Responses to “Taking the pall out of The Pallbearer

  1. 1 Scott

    I never thought I’d see the day that you talked about a pall bearer without mentioning Paul Bearer.

  2. Jeez, you’re right!

    [high-pitched voice] “Ohhh, Hulllk Hogannn … Why do you feaarrr death?”

  3. 3 Nick

    I can’t say enough horrible things about Michael Rapaport. As soon as I saw the title of this post, I knew you had caught the same on-air version of the movie that I had tuned into–was it CTV? The only difference is that as soon as I saw Michael Rapaport appear (I believe he was pestering someone on a payphone), I hit my TV’s power button about 7 times in succession (this proceeded to turn it on and off and on and off, but luckily, I had chosen an odd number).

  4. You’ll be happy to know I plan to say some mean things about Michael Rapaport in an upcoming Trailer Trash article Jay and I are working on. Rapaport is really up there with Jim Belushi and Mike Love as someone I instantly want to punch in the face every time I see him.

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