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STUDIO: Warner/HBO
MSRP: $29.95
RATED:
NR
RUNNING TIME: 180 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Making Of
  • Commentaries
  • Kenny Powers: Greatest Hits
  • Schaeffer Motors Commercials
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Stevie’s Dark Secret

The Pitcher

Kenny Powers is an asshole who blew his baseball stardom on drugs and the joyrides of his insatiable ego. Now washed up, he still has the ego and the delusion but none of the cachet. Funny shit happens in that particular Jody Hill/Ben Best/Danny McBride sort of way.

The Humans

Danny McBride. John Hawkes. Kary Mixon. Andrew Daley. Ben Best. Will Ferrell. Craig Robinson.


Billy Mays tried to sell this and failed. Billy Mays did the only thing a shamed Samurai could do in such a situation.

The Nutshell

I forgot how much I love seeing people curse in front of kids.

It’s a small thing in the grand scheme but for some reason I’ve just gotten used to seeing how they cut around profanity and children, something which oftentimes takes me right out of a movie or show because of the cutaways allowing the vulgarity to be filmed at a time after the kids are off the set.

Eastbound and Down has tons of cursing with the kids right there. It warms me.


“Please don’t let the Nebbish Eater arrive from my left…”


“WE’RE FUCKED!”


The Lowdown

The fact this show is about a washed up baseball player should be all I need. And it is. And it isn’t.

Eastbound and Down is almost totally critic proof. It’s messy, coasts on its premise, and cares very little at recreating the world it’s based on. Watch Craig Robinson swing a baseball bat. It’s a nightmare. It’s worse than watching Steven Seagal run. Or Kathy Najimy do anything. But when you have a lead character who asks a hooker if he can wear the Scream mask during sex, doesn’t know the sex of his own niece, and listens to his own batshit ego-driven audiobooks, very little else matters.

After lighting the
world on fire in the major leagues, relief pitcher Kenny Powers (McBride) fell to Earth. Hard.
Drugs, decreased skills, increased racism and homophobia, all the worst
parts of the Bible. Where we meet him in Eastbound and Down
(after a montage getting us up to speed) is at the end of the road.
He’s back in the small town he left and distanced himself from as a
star. He’s living with his straight-laced brother (the great John
Hawkes, playing against type here) and taking a substitute teaching
position just to begin the healing process.

Of course, he
doesn’t care about healing. He doesn’t care about anything and
thankfully this show doesn’t care about showcasing his evolution from
washed-up loser to reformer winner. Instead, we get to watch the
festivities without getting any of it on us. In the middle episodes
there’s a sense of a story arc that’s going to take us somewhere
typical and boring and luckily the show goes in a different direction
altogether.


Jody Hill’s The Foot Fist Way is a movie I find decent but nowhere nearly deserving of the praise it got. It was the big coming out party for the creative team but didn’t hit me like it hit others. I’ve appreciated Danny McBride in small doses in the number of films he’s been in since his breakthrough, though it was very uncertain if he was able to carry a show and his “shtick”, though funny wore me out over time. R-rated television and its 30-minute bursts seemed like a perfect showcase for his skills and in bringing the creative team behind his cult hit comedy with him provides the next evolutionary step for this special little team of North Carolinians. Ben Best and Jody Hill and the whole lot of folks “discovered” by Will Ferrell have seeped into the comedy landscape fast and there was always the concern that something like this could be a case of them simply striking while the iron is hot. In many ways this carries the torch of their karate movie to the next step. Similar ego-driven characters living in a world of delusion. Similar supporting characters. Similar production value.

In reality, this is that idea done much better. I think there’s a percentage of people predisposed to like this show simply based on the principals and the fact it’s an R-rated comedy show on HBO [where were you folks for Lucky Louie?] and that’s actually just about good enough but it’s a refreshing change of pace. Comedy is at its best when it tests your limitations and challenges you. This is funny stuff partially because some of it’s just plain wrong.


“You can lose a little weight but not all of it, your funny hides in the fat. Clutch the fat with me or fall forever.”


Part of the joy of the show is seeing how Powers abuses the seemingly endless goodwill of his sister in-law, how much he’ll manipulate the sycophantic band teacher Stevie, how dumb he and druggie bartender Clegg are going to get, and most importantly… how poorly his attempts to woo his endowed former high school flame will go. It’s the Danny McBride show here, and it allows the actor to riff on a lot of the things that made him a comedy sensation in supporting roles. He gets help from Will Ferrell as a crazy car dealer, Ben Best as the impossible not to love Clegg, and a variety of other supporters, but the meat of this is watching Danny McBride rock the worst hair and clothes in town and do his magic.

It smooths the rough edges that keep the show from being a resounding success.


“I’m in here practicing for the triathlon!”

As one note as it is, Eastbound and Down
works. McBride owns the role to the bone, embracing the vulgar,
inarticulate, selfish, and bullheaded Kenny Powers with every moment of
screen time. Watching him lie, make a fool of himself, and embarrass
all around him is a lot of fun to watch. The character’s not as
cleverly conceived as Ricky Gervais on the original The Office
or as smug as Larry David’s television incarnation, but rather the male
id version. The rough around the edges aspect allows an audience to
accept a character who will betray everyone around him, go one coke
benders, and generally embody all that is wrong with ego.

It’s far from perfect, but it’s a damn good bit of vulgar fun.

The Package

The DVD has a decent array of features, including three commentary tracks from the creators as well as a handful of fun little tidbits to enhance the purchase. A show like this, you have to wonder what the process is like. How much is improvised, who loses their shit on camera, and what kind of set environment guys like this need to do their thing. This scratches the surface of it pretty well and while there are funny things on the tracks it’s also nice to see them deconstruct their craft a little. These (including the excellent director David Gordon Green, who did some episodes) guys represent a fine cross-section of the present renaissance in the world of comedy and it’s good to have them in my ears.

The other stuff is pretty fun and worth the effort, especially seeing Will Ferrell try to make everyone laugh, but the meat of this thing is by far the commentary tracks.


8.0 out of 10