J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Most Likely to Murder: Death-By-Homecoming

Poor Dan Gregor and Doug Mand. They most have been bullied mercilessly in high school, because, Sweet Georgia Brown, do they ever take it out on the protag of their latest mystery-comedy. During high school, Billy Green was the “King of Valley Stream,” but in Vegas, he is the loser who cleans out the bathrooms of a high-end club. A series of Job-like humiliations will rain down on him when he comes home for Thanksgiving, but he also thinks he kind of-sort of witnessed a murder (or at least the aftermath), before passing out drunk and stoned in Gregor’s Most Likely to Murder (trailer here), which is now available via VOD.

Green has come home hoping to pick up where he left off, as the bullying crapheel who could get any girl in his class. Unfortunately, everyone has moved on, except maybe his best friend Duane. His biggest disappointment comes from Kara, his ex-girlfriend, who is so over him. To add a further layer of insult, she is now seeing Lowell Shapiro, Green’s nebbish neighbor, whom he cruelly tormented during high school.

However, Green notices Shapiro acting strangely sometime in the early A.M., before he face-plants for the night. The next day, he wakes to the sirens coming for the body of Shapiro’s now deceased mother. Immediately suspicious, Green starts clumsily digging up information on the Shapiros, discovering the old lady was quite the burden to her son. Of course, nobody wants to hear it, except Duane. Kara is suitably appalled, but Green is not about to back down.

It is hard to say whether Most Likely is a comedy or a cry for help. This is no joke—if Gregor and Mand are still carrying around toxic emotional baggage from high school, they should reach out (for what its worth, this is what comes up when you google “mental health hotline”). Regardless, the way they use Green as their whipping boy is moderately amusing for a while, in a superficial kind of way, but it just gets uncomfortably awkward after twenty minutes or so.

In case we missed the point, Adam Pally’s manic sad sack performance as Green will inspire endless derivations of the word “cringe.” However, Rachel Bloom is appealingly forceful and cutting as Kara (evidently, she doesn’t get a last name). It is also amusing to see a mini-Benson reunion with Didi Conn and Ethan Phillips, who appears as Green’s naïve parents. To his credit, John Phillips scratches out some chuckles as Perkins, the cop who was once the butt of Green’s many practical jokes, but Mand might even be harder to watch than Pally as the desperate approval-seeking Duane.

It might be convenient to simplify for dramatic purposes, but the truth is, nobody in high school was all freak, all geek, or all punk-rock Young Republican. Maybe Most Likely works better if your high school years were socially insular, but if you had greater perspective, the film sounds a bit forced and false. Frankly, Most Likely to Die remains the better death-by-high-school reunion, for its unfussy homage to 1980s slasher horror. However, if it helps Gregor, Mand, and maybe even Pally to seek some counseling than it was all worth it. Strictly for fans of the sitcom cast, Most Likely to Murder is now available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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