Joe Somebody

2001, PG, 98 min. Directed by John Pasquin. Starring Tim Allen, Kelly Bowen, Jim Belushi, Kelly Lynch, Hayden Panettiere, Greg Germann.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 21, 2001

Joe Somebody

It wouldn't be the holiday film season without the release of at least one bland, by-the-book comedy sandwiched in between the serious Oscar fare and the three-hour spectacles. This year's entry in this dubious category is Joe Somebody, a fable of sorts about a nebbish named Joe Scheffer, who suddenly becomes visible to the world when he stands up for himself by challenging the bully who punched him to a rematch. There's something faintly Capra-esque about this underdog scenario that might have made for a quirky social satire had the film not been tailored from start to finish as a Christmas vehicle for Tim Allen. Don't get me wrong: Allen's father-doesn't-know-best gig in the long-running television series Home Improvement was better than what you see in most sitcoms of the same genre. Like Roseanne Conner in her prime, his TV character's struggle to live up to his own expectations for himself, as both husband and parent, was genuinely touching at times. On the big screen, however, Allen loses this intimacy with his audience; to be charitable, his presence is nondescript and lackluster in the movies. That may be why he at least makes a small dent of an impression in the early scenes in Joe Somebody, when his character is intended to be, well, nondescript and lackluster. Although not a terribly expressive actor, Allen conveys in these scenes, to some degree, the feeling of self-defeat that pervades Joe's everyday existence. But once the character's orchestrated rise begins, Allen's acting shifts to the persona mode and “Joe Somebody” can't turn back. As the film progresses, it becomes more and more cynical in its effort to please, right up to the climactic rematch, which appropriately enough, takes place in a schoolyard. The movie's message professes to ostensibly be about the need to be yourself, it's what inside that counts, blah, blah, blah, and yet, the film gets all of its energy and kick from the scenes in which Joe is acting completely contrary to those truisms. Occasionally, Joe Somebody gets you to chuckle, particularly when it jabs pharmaceutical advertising (the recited litany of side effects at the end of every prescription drug commercial is a running joke here) and corporate human resources mumbo jumbo. But, on the whole, it's not very funny, which is in keeping with the every other bland, by-the-book comedy sandwiched in between the serious Oscar fare and the three-hour spectacles in holiday seasons past. In many respects, Joe Somebody and its ilk are like that predictable pair of boxer shorts or that inevitable housecoat that you receive every year for Christmas from someone in your family. For better or worse, it wouldn't be the holidays without them.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More John Pasquin Films
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
No medals will be awarded for this Sandra Bullock follow-up, although the actress proves herself an ever-game comic actress.

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 25, 2005

The Santa Clause
When Santa falls off his roof, a man forgets to read the fine print before signing on as his substitute.

Hollis Chacona, Nov. 18, 1994

More by Steve Davis
Rebuilding Paradise
Ron Howard hides an eco-warning in the story of the Camp Fire inferno

July 31, 2020

The Painted Bird
Jerzy Kosinski's brutal novel of Nazi-occupied Poland loses none of its inhumanity

July 17, 2020


Joe Somebody, John Pasquin, Tim Allen, Kelly Bowen, Jim Belushi, Kelly Lynch, Hayden Panettiere, Greg Germann

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle