EAT WHEATIES! (2021)
Starring Tony Hale, Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, David Walton, Sarah Burns, Alan Tudyk, Sarah Chalke, Paul Walter Hauser, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Goldberg, Sugar Lynn Beard, Robbie Amell, Kylie Bunbury, Hayden Szeto, Rizwan Manji, Mimi Kennedy, Phil Reeves, Kristian Bruun, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Gita Ready and the voice of Elizabeth Banks.
Screenplay by Scott Abramovitch.
Directed by Scott Abramovitch.
Distributed by Screen Media. 88 minutes. Not Rated.
It’s not easy to make a sweet comedy about cyber-stalking but Eat Wheaties! sort of pulls it off.
More than that, it is about the cult of personality and celebrity worship, which is particularly timely now. Specifically, it is about a man who starts to obsess about actress Elizabeth Banks.
Banks doesn’t physically appear in Eat Wheaties! but she does good-naturedly allow her life and work history and her social media to be scrutinized and she even does a brief voiceover cameo as herself on voicemail.
However, even if Banks herself doesn’t appear in Eat Wheaties!, the film basically revolves around her. Also, the film has attracted a strong cast of TV actors like Tony Hale, Elisha Cushbert, Sarah Chalke, Paul Walter Hauser, Lamorne Morris and Alan Tudyk.
Eat Wheaties! is based on a 2003 novel called The Locklear Letters by Michael Kun. The actress being followed in the book was Heather Locklear, but nearly 20 years later the film picked someone a bit more current and updated the story to the world of social media.
Hale plays an Arizona-based loser named Sid Straw. (Am I the only one who wondered if his character name was an affectionate nod at 80s-90s female alt-rock singer Syd Straw?) He works in a dead-end marketing job, doesn’t have many friends, has a terrible dating history and tries way too hard to ingratiate himself to people.
He’s the type of guy that people will cross the room – or the street – to avoid. His inability to pick up on social cues and his total disregard of boundaries is a big reason for his unpopularity. Even his brother, who is also probably also his best friend, and certainly his biggest apologist, pulls him aside at one point to try to get him to dial things down a bit.
Straw had gone to The University of Pennsylvania with Elizabeth Banks and slightly knew her there. (He briefly dated one of her sorority sisters and was on a volleyball team with her.) Years later, he is one of the co-chairs of a Penn west coast reunion and starts obsessing about getting the class’ Hollywood celeb to come to the party.
He also wonders, rather insecurely, if she remembers him at all, and is determined to find out. He becomes even more determined when no one that he tells that he knew Banks – and for a while he tells just about everyone – believes that they had really met. (The awkward film title comes from a story Straw tells about Banks using that term as a farewell in college.)
Therefore, he joins Facebook (and I’m not sure I buy the fact that such a desperate-to-be-hip dweeb wouldn’t have already been all over social media). He starts writing weirdly personal notes to Banks on Facebook, not quite realizing that these aren’t private correspondences, but he is posting on the wall of her fan page. Not surprisingly, the notes go viral.
He also contacts her overprotective agent (Sarah Chalke) a few times. Eventually the agent takes a restraining order out against him, leading to Straw losing his job, his home and his position on the reunion committee.
The role of Straw is not a huge stretch for Hale. He has specialized in similarly cringeworthy and needy nerds in Veep and Arrested Development. However, Hale throws himself into the character and makes Sid somewhat likable even when the audience wants to slap him in the face and tell him to think about what he is doing before jumping into everything headfirst.
Even though Sid is sort of technically stalking Banks, he is not really doing it with any kind of malicious intent. Most of it is much more pathetic than threatening. He’s just a bit too dense to recognize how completely inappropriate he is being. Still, with the seriousness of the subject of cyber-stalking, the movie seems to be just slightly romanticizing its anti-hero and soft-pedaling the problem.
Still, even if it was sometimes a little inappropriate and is treading in a slightly gray area, morality wise, I must admit I mostly rather enjoyed Eat Wheaties! Taken for what it is – a light character study of a slightly clueless dweeb – it is sweet and funny and mostly has its heart in the right place.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 1, 2021.