The Chosen One (2010) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, drug references, and some sexuality
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Carolina Gomez, Marcus Giamatti, Holland Taylor, Peter Riegert, Samantha Smith, George Dzundza, Pamela Guest
Director: Rob Schneider, George Sluizer
Screenplay: Rob Schneider, Boon Collins

It took two years for Rob Schneider (You Don't Mess with the Zohan, The Reef) to finally see The Chosen One off of the proverbial shelf where films are made awaiting a distribution deal (the film reportedly needed more financing in order to finish, plus a breach-of-contract lawsuit to contend with), and once complete, it would be relegated to a straight-to-video release.  Kudos for actually getting it done, though, and fulfilling a dream of a sort.  Not a dream that resulted in a film that will be seen as good by many critics, but it's refreshing to at least find a Schneider vehicle that's bad for reasons other than reliance on extreme crude humor and juvenile-minded story developments.

Schneider plays Paul Zadzik, once the finest car salesman in Los Angeles, now a fairly useless alcoholic, reeling for months after his wife of four years leaves him for her yoga instructor.  Suicidal thoughts plague Paul's mind, unable to get out of his rut of a life, but those plans take a detour when he's visited by a beautiful Native South American named Marissa (Gomez, Bluff) and three Arhuaco Shaman cohorts.  The visitors have traveled far and wide to get in contact with Paul, claiming he's the Chosen One destined to help their people and spiritual way of life back home through a key selfless act that will result in much needed snow falling on their the mountain they call their ancestral home.  Now with his career on the line, and an ex-wife (Smith, "Supernatural") he's trying to win back, Paul must decide between the path of self-loathing, restoration of his selfish ways, or in trying to help a group of strangers he doesn't know who believe in things he thinks are obviously untrue.

Fans of Rob Schneider's more successful slapstick and sophomoric comedies will likely be disappointed waiting for the laughs to come.  There is enough humor in the material for the film to qualify as a comedy, but Schneider's screenplay dishes out a more dramatic storyline than any other work he's done, and some scenes, particularly as the film draws to its climax, aren't meant to be funny at all.  Underneath the film is a theme of what's most important in life  -- helping yourself or helping others -- and also in reconciling yourself with the tragedies of your past.  Though not particularly deep in any one area, one senses that Schneider had been doing a bit of soul-searching while crafting the screenplay (along with Boon Collins), and wanted to make a legitimate film that meant something more to him personally other than in trying to be the funnyman willing to do anything to get a laugh.

The Chosen One is one of two films that Schneider would receive a directorial credit for made in 2007 (Big Stan being the other), though George Sluizer (Spoorloos, The Vanishing) had been the original director prior to funds running out on the production.  Both films would go straight to DVD.  The direction isn't the real problem, though many detractors will likely cite the slow pace as the film's biggest obstacle to getting laughs.  What makes The Chosen One ultimately become a well-meaning dud is that there isn't enough laughs to be a successful comedy, there isn't enough emotional content to be a potent drama, there isn't enough imagination to be a fertile fantasy, and it aims too low to legitimately achieve the lofty heights Schneider sets his sights on as a whimsical spiritual/environmental message film. 

From a narrative standpoint, it's lazy and not particularly inspired.  While it is rather unique in that the film becomes about a car salesman who must save the plight of a bird's nest in order for snow to fall on a mountain in Colombia and preserve a spiritual people there, the oddness of such a premise often undercuts the film's feel, leaving it artificial and overbearing.  Though it is a more serious work than the typical Schneider vehicle, the core of the movie is built on a ludicrous premise, not to mention that, whenever we see the Arhuaco Shaman, it's impossible to believe their authenticity given their inauthentic garb and inability to keep from smirking for reasons unknown. 

The best thing that can be said about The Chosen One is that Rob Schneider puts in a commendably subdued performance, and is believable enough during the story's more serious moments.  It's a likeably innocuous film, provided you come in with absolutely no expectations.  But, given Schneider's reputation, it is likely a film without much of an audience, as his ready-made fans will think it is his least funny film, and it will likely be ignored by most of the movie going public who gave up on Schneider as a creative force about a dozen crude comedies ago.

I'm sure even Rob Schneider himself is likely to see The Chosen One as a missed opportunity, as he lacked the funds to see his vision come to life in the way he wanted (video textures and unimpressive visual effects do make this feel rather like a cheap production).  Straight to video is just about right, even with its modest star power.  Unless you have a yen to see Schneider branch out as an actor by not playing a manic, smart-alecky nincompoop, there just aren't enough returns to make this film the the one most other audiences should choose for an evening's entertainment.

Qwipster's rating:

©2010 Vince Leo