Warner Brothers Pictures
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
To quote Tim Robbins from Bull Durham: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." For director Stephen Soderberg's newest film The Informant!, not only did he lose, but it's also raining…hard. If you saw the trailer, it did everything possible to convince you this is a light-hearted, goofy tale of a corporate whistleblower. That may have been the original intention, but what ends up on screen is a dismal mess.
Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, an executive at Archer Daniels Midland, and reports to the FBI about a price fixing scheme going on all the way to the top of the company. At their behest, he starts taking meetings and wearing a wire.
His assigned agent is played by Scott Bakula, who has done well in other roles and on TV series. But here he looks both bored and in pain. And so was I.
It's not whimsical. It's not goofy. It's especially not funny.
This is not to say there are a couple of good things about The Informant! Melanie Lynskey, a seriously talented New Zealand actress, plays Whitacre's wife Ginger, and totally nails the angst of a suburban housewife in the early 90s. She's really charming, and the film would have benefited from having her on screen more often. And there were some interesting cameo appearances: Candy Clark, from American Graffiti and The Man Who Fell to Earth, has one scene as Whitacre's mother, and Tom and Dick Smothers have one unrelated scene each. I have always been a fan of the Smothers Brothers, and it's nice to see them still working. Also watch for Clancy Brown, an actor from Urbana, Ohio, who shows up a couple of times as a corporate lawyer. He's capable of much better, and it's too bad he's not offered more important roles.
Needless to say, compliments aside, there was more than enough irritation and boredom in The Informant!. Much of Damon's dialogue is delivered in voice over narration, explaining what he's thinking and what may be going on. Generally, that's not a good way to tell a story. And despite being based on a true story, Damon's character and actions are not the stuff of movie legend. And the real cherry on the cake is a music score by Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch. It's primarily bouncy, jaunty and artificial, and sounds like one of those 1950s industrial films that were staples of high school classrooms in that era. The idea was cute for about ten bars, and then quickly segued into the musical equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.
Damon's character, Mark Whitacre, grew up in Morrow and worked at Kings Island in the mid-1970s, so you may have even known him. Unfortunately, neither Damon's performance, nor Whitacre's personality evoke any sympathy for this individual. Not that he deserves it.