$5 a Day review by Tom Blain

Look at it. Its horrible.

I mean, what were they thinking? Nothing says, Dont rent me, dont buy me, dont watch me, like the DVD cover to the right. What does this cover say to you? Three nutcases with wide grins on their faces, as the craziest looking one is in control of the wheel, driving them towards something. Oh laughter, uproarious laughter is written across their faces. What could they be driving towards? Did they just run over Carrot Top? What song just came on the radio that they can all rally around? Or are they purely insane? Was this really the best marketing decision for this straight to DVD video? For some reason people who design DVD covers feel a need to put as many faces on DVD covers as possible; even if their stars arent people who exactly draw you into a movie. There are three crazy smiling faces on the cover of this DVD who arent cutting it. From right to left: Christopher Walken is looking 70ish, has never been marquee name and lately plays that crazy guy who plays that minor role that gets the biggest laughs. Numerous appearances on SNL help out his cause as a comedy nut job. Sharon Stone hasnt been relevant in 15 years and is dressed like an aging Vegas showgirl. Finally there is Alessandro Nivola; who? When I first saw his face shot, I thought Steve Nash was kicking off his film career. The whole point of putting peoples faces on a DVD cover is to draw people in who like to watch those actors other movies. Sadly I think the opposite is happening.

The experiment begins. Can this movie possibly be as bad as the DVD cover? Before I even watched it, there was one shred of hope aside from Walken weirdness: a pink PT Cruiser in the right corner of the DVD cover. In thumbnail view you can barely make it out. That should be the cover. This PT Cruiser represents comedy and awkward situations. Its like the VW van in Little Miss Sunshine, just the necessity of such an absurd vehicle should create comedy. So there is hope.

The story revolves around a father and son relationship that is on the mend. Nat Parker (Christopher Walken) is a small time con-man who reaches out to reconnect with his son Flynn (Alessandro Nivola). He tells him he is dying (which may or may not be true) and requests that he assist him in driving from New Jersey to Mexico so that he could undertake a radical, homeopathic therapy. To get the full Walken affect you have to picture him pushing out each syllable in hO-me-O-PA-thiC. The son begrudgingly accepts (I smell a road trip movie!! {squeal!}). To understand Flynns angst, its important to note that he spent some time in prison due to his fathers shenanigans.

Nat reveals his lifestyle along the way which is a personality quirk that makes the movie enjoyable. He has worked it out so that he lives on (drop the title.) $5 a day. He does this by seeking out freebies and scamming people. For example, on the road trip they eat almost exclusively at IHOP and receive a free meal by telling the waitress that its Nats birthday. The pink PT Cruiser is sponsored by Sweet n Low (meaning he probably got it for free), and he receives free gas from Chevron for driving it. Even his home is a basement at an amusement park in Atlantic City (low rent, if any rent). He also pulls small time confidence scams (ordering hotel food to someone elses room, sleeping in empty homes with for sale signs). Walkens goofy, cheap character makes the movie somewhat enjoyable and gives the road trip some spice.

But as great as Walkens character is, Nivolas character is not. The performance (or maybe script) is shaky at best as he constantly makes strong assertions one minute and weak ones the next. Hell tell his father he isnt going to be a part of something at one point and then give in very quickly. There was very little character consistency. For example, the pink PT Cruiser was immediately a point of contention upon its introduction. Flynn uproariously complained he was not getting into such a vehicle (What is he? In high school? Afraid the cool kids will see him?). The next minute he is driving out of New Jersey in it and never complaining about the pink beast again.

One interesting note: Sharon Stones character (again shown in the car on the DVD twice) is just a visit on the road trip and not a member of the road trip itself. Im not complaining as it would have been out of place to put her there in the film, but again its makes for and odd bit of DVD marketing.

While its not going to win many awards, $5 a Day is a fine little film. Dont let the crazy cover fool you; its at least decent. There are enough quirky moments to draw out a few laughs and you might learn a thing or two about saving a buck from Nat Parker.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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