Wilson, the latest feature from Craig Johnson, is supposed to produce offbeat humor while it highlights the underappreciated acting talents of Woody Harrelson. Considering Johnson did well with The Skeleton Twins, I came in with hopes that he’d succeed with both. Johnson succeeds at one but fails terribly at the other. I guess you can’t win them all.

Harrelson is Wilson, an insufferable misanthrope living a lonely life with his dog. He’s based on the graphic novel written by Daniel Clowes (who also wrote this script). Clowes also created the interestingly funny Ghost World, which also was turned into a film. Like Ghost World, Wilson is about a person who harps on anything and everything. Wilson comes off like an ornery old man, talking about how things used to be by complaining about technology and knocking anyone who lives in the suburbs (okay, he may be out of touch, too). Some of his musings make sense but the problem is Wilson will talk to anyone, whether they want him to or not.

Wilson has one friend, and that friend is moving away. So Wilson's loneliness becomes more apparent when his father passes away. In turn, Wilson pines for his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern), and looks to rekindle their relationship. There’s one problem – Pippi left him! Wilson’s behavior likely drive her away (the fact someone found him lovable to begin with is a minor miracle), and when she left she was pregnant with their child.

That pregnancy brings up the film’s central story – Wilson assumed Pippi had an abortion when she left him. But Pippi, when Wilson finally catches up with her, reveals not only did she not have an abortion but she gave up the baby for adoption. This news drives Wilson to find his child, who still lives locally and is now a teenager named Claire (Isabella Amara). Wilson, now with a purpose, wants Pippi and Claire in his life – he wants a family. But can he soften up enough to make it work? Should he even attempt to open a window that for years has been closed to him? That’s what Johnson and Clowes want to show us, and the results are… disappointing.

Let’s focus on the characters. Although they’re on screen and played by actual people, they’re still cartoons. Clowes, in writing the script, failed to humanize anyone. That being said, Harrelson is excellent as the titular character but he’s a less endearing version of American Splendor's Harvey Pekar (played marvelously by Paul Giamatti) and an incomplete take of Clowes’ own Ghost World creation, Seymour (Steve Buscemi). Wilson is full of overused tropes and poor humor, all of which further the gap between the audience and the film’s main character.

For example, Wilson attempts to have a conversation about his newfound daughter with a complete stranger. What’s worse is that he engages the stranger in a public restroom, while they’re urinating. As if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Wilson takes time to comment on the stranger’s, ahem, appendage, praising him for his size. It’s the kind of scene designed to makes audiences laugh, but doesn't. Not only is it not funny but it paints an unflattering picture of Wilson as socially inept and plain creepy. It’s no wonder the only group of people who do warm up to him are convicts – yes, Wilson does a stint in prison. The inmates love him, but the people he wants in his life don’t want anything to do with him.

The one character who’s immediately likeable is Shelly (Judy Greer), Wilson’s dogsitter. But since she’s the most realistic (and normal) person in Wilson, she’s sorely out of place. Ugh, the frustration mounts.

In regards to Claire, with her goth wardrobe, multicolored hair and sour attitude (just like dad!), she is a millennial amalgam of Ghost World’s Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johannson). While Enid and Rebecca’s barbs came off as hip and snarky, Claire’s persona is redundant and tired. Wilson is exactly that – redundant and tired, and its appeal is lost on me.

What could’ve been another in a long line of films about a lovable jerk is just a silly cartoon that’s more annoying than real. You should pass on Wilson since it’s apparent that many of the “people” in his life did the same.

2 stars out of 5


Did you enjoy this article? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It would be great if you subscribed to our RSS feed or signed up for email updates to get more goodness. There’s lots more where this came from!

blog comments powered by Disqus