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STUDIO: HBO Studios
RUNNING TIME: 210 minutes
- Invitation to the Set
- Big Red Cockfighting
- Deleted Scenes
- Commentaries with David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jody Hill and More
Kenny Fucking Powers. In Mexico.
Created by Ben Best, Danny McBride and Jody Hill. Directed by Jody Hill and David Gordon Green. Acted by Danny McBride, Steve Little, Ana de la Reguera, Lisa De Razzo, Efren Ramirez, Marco Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Deep Roy, Katy Mixon, Andrew Daly, John Hawkes, Ben Best and Don Johnson.
We left Kenny Powers (McBride) at the end of Season 1 in a sad state. He was on his way to Tampa with his on again\off again ladyfriend, April (Mixon), to reignite his baseball career so he could prove he wasn’t washed up anymore. At the beginning of their road trip (as they stop for gas), Kenny gets a call from the Assistant to the Assistant Manager of Tampa, telling him the job isn’t waiting for him any longer, that in fact it never was. Due to him being cowardly, egotistical and a raging piece of shit, Kenny takes off, leaving April stranded at the gas station. Picking up with him in Season 2, Kenny is down in Mexico, cockfighting for a living and dreaming of the life he left behind and imagining a future where he can be a famous baseball player once again. With the help of his sycophantic best and only friend Stevie Janowski (Little), Kenny starts planning for his (supposedly) inevitable comeback, but in order to make it happen he’ll have to learn how to get out of his own way, out of his own ass and get over his complete disdain and disgust of everything Mexican.
I have mixed feelings about this show. I think it’s incredibly funny when it’s not being painfully uncomfortable and sad, which is just about my favorite combination of emotions for a series to work from. But I also think the show is mean down to it’s bones when it wants to be and then shits out a little heart when it wants us not to hate Kenny (and to a lesser extent Stevie) too much. Except the heart feels much more fabricated than the meanness does. When Kenny does something good it’s only so he can feel better about himself since, after 2 Seasons, Kenny doesn’t have a non-selfish prick bone in his body. I’m sure that’s probably the point, but it makes it really hard for me to want to be around Kenny Powers for very long.
My issues with the series might also stem from the fact that I’m becoming pretty burnt out on Danny McBride. It’s really time for him to try something new with his career. In a way, he reminds me of Seth Rogen when there was that palpable hostility towards him after Pineapple Express because he was coming out with a movie every 15 minutes where he always played the same lovable schlub who gets the girl. It seems like with Observe and Report and 50\50 (and I guess Green Hornet even though it was mostly lame) he’s attempting to inject himself into some other genre’s besides stoner comedies and it’s giving him a bit of respect and leeway he didn’t have a few years ago. McBride needs to do the same. After watching Your Highness and 30 Minutes or Less within a week of each other, it hit me that I was close to being done with McBride, professionally. He has one mode and that’s “Southern Prick with Abnormally High Self Esteem Who Also Treats Women Like Garbage” and I think I’m over it. I’m tired of shaking my head and covering my face with disgust every time he opens his mouth because I don’t think it’s clever anymore, it’s just sad and tipping over the hill into desperate self parody.
I think the reason Season 1 of Eastbound and Down worked so well for me is that he had foils that felt like real people who would call him out on his shit and took every opportunity to try and bring him back down to Earth. Even though John Hawkes (as Kenny’s brother Dustin) was extremely underused in the first season, he still felt like someone who had a real relationship with Kenny and didn’t buy into any of his bullshit. With Kenny’s move to Mexico, there’s no one that Kenny feels is even enough of a person to communicate with on a real level. He’s dating a beautiful lounge singer (played by the lovely and wonderful Ana de la Reguera, who also tried to elevate Nacho Libre), but Kenny always makes sure to spell out for her before they have sex that “while you may have my body, you do not have my heart”. Watching him treating her like shit in episode after episode (unless he’s feeling sorry for himself and then he just treats her like property) really started wearing on me after a while. After telling her how little she means to him over and over again through the season, when she hooks up with her record producer (played by the absolutely incredible Michael Pena who, aside from Louis C.K., has been giving my favorite comedic performances of the year with this and 30 Minutes or Less), Kenny freaks out and destroys the entire studio and steals the producer’s car. While this was happening, I felt like Jody Hill’s intention was that I should be rooting for Kenny while he gained some catharsis by once again ruining the party for everyone around him, but instead I was tempted to fast forward to when the grown ups started talking again. I can only watch a temper tantrum for so long until I want to punch the baby and that’s Season 2 of Eastbound and Down in a nutshell: a show where all you want is for someone to punch the goddamn baby, but instead they humor it and buy it toys to make the screaming stop. I…probably shouldn’t have kids.
EB&D tries to get us to empathize with Kenny when he meets his deadbeat dad, who ran away to Mexico many years earlier, leaving Kenny and his Mom in the dust. Kenny’s dad is played by Don Johnson (at his sleazy best), but the writing is so one dimensional for the character, I found myself embarrassed for him by the end of his first episode. Guess what? Kenny’s dad (named Eduardo Sanchez, confusing Stevie into thinking is one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project) is also a braggart prick who isn’t half as awesome as he thinks he is. Eduardo is a grown up Kenny, complete with his love of All Terrain Vehicles and his lack of respect for any life form other than himself, but it’s all too on the nose. Great, Kenny grew up to be exactly the man his father is but, since Kenny wasn’t raised by him (or even really knew him), it doesn’t excuse his repugnant behavior or shed any light on his childhood and whether he was a good kid before success turned him into a douchebag. I know the conceit is that since he’s met his father (who turns Kenny into the police at the mere whiff of reward money) and can’t stand him, it makes Powers want to do anything in order to avoid becoming Eduardo. It’s a way to turn Kenny towards the powers of decency and light, only it just seems trite and lazy and so easy, that when Kenny starts doing decent things for people in the last two episodes of the season, it comes off as too little too late.
Eastbound and Down Season 2 is not without it’s moments of greatness. Michael Pena steals every moment he’s onscreen as the childlike millionaire owner of the Mexican baseball team that Kenny joins in order to facilitate his comeback. The way Pena accentuates certain syllables and words actually changed the way I talked to people for a few days in my attempts to be just like him. I didn’t have a dad. Steve Little (as Kenny Powers’ slave\personal assistant, Stevie Janowski) on the other hand is on the opposite end of the awesome character spectrum for me, as it’s become a one note role for him to play and the voice he’s using sounds like he’s partially deaf and full retard, which he only sounded like in Season 1 if he was drunk. His presence was sometimes too much to take. I started out this paragraph trying to give the show props in the areas I thought it deserved it, but thinking about Eastbound and Down Season 2 just keeps pulling me towards the negative end of things.
One thing I can’t fault the show with is it’s direction. Jody Hill and David Gordon Green bring a quality to the framing and cinematography that give the show a majestic feature film palate that makes the show always fun to look at even when it’s not fun to listen to. They shoot Mexico like it’s a beautiful woman with her panties half off, but also with a bad case of anal warts that you can’t take your eyes off of. I still miss the David Gordon Green that made George Washington and Undertow, but even shit like Your Highness shows the man is a filmmaker with a distinct vision that’s worth keeping an eye on. Jody Hill made Foot Fist Way and Observe and Report, which are both on my list of top comedies of last decade, so I’ll always watch what he puts out, no matter what. When these guys finish off Eastbound and Down (which will reportedly be after Season 3), I hope they go back to work that’s more personal and enriching, because the adventures of Kenny Powers have gotten a little stale (even though there’s only been 13 episodes total in 2 seasons so far).
Then again, maybe it’s just me. I was certain I was going to like Season 2 with cornrowed Kenny in Mexico, cock fighting with Indian midgets (Deep Roy represent) and finally getting back on the pitchers mound again. When the episodes initially aired on HBO, the reviews seemed really positive and said it was light years better than Season 1. I guess for me it’s all just a little too mean. I need more heart from shows that trade in mean humor (and this is coming from someone who’s a huge fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and the heart I got from Eastbound and Down seems manufactured and without real substance. Yes, I believe Kenny loves and misses April, but only because she has big tits he wants to play with again. From the moment he ditched her at the gas station in finale of Season 1, he was going to have a long, uphill climb in order to redeem himself and nothing that happens in Season 2 made me want to spend another minute watching him. I don’t really care if he redeems himself anymore.
While watching the 4th or 5th episode of the season and Kenny was in the middle of crushing every last bit of dignity out of Stevie (not that he had much to start with), I stopped the DVD and said to myself, “Fuck, I should be writing the Great American Novel or the best zombie movie the world has ever seen, but instead I’m watching this fucking asshole. There has to be something better to do than this.” I finished, though, and it does go out on a sweet note (and I will be back for Season 3), but I need to care about Kenny Powers and his comeback or else it’s all just jerking off. I need a reason to watch this show other than the occasional laugh or else my soft hearted ass is fucking out.
There’s a few commentaries on select tracks that show how much thought go into the world their building in the Kenny Powers universe. Also, the gag reel made me laugh until I cried watching Michael Pena make this little fart noise over and over again until he could do it without laughing. Oh God, am I just a fart joke guy?
The transfer is gorgeous and looks amazing on my 52′ Flatscreen. I will watch anything these guys put out forever.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars