The real world has a habit of infiltrating your less-than-adult-like existence and forcing you to accept the fact that you’re no longer a kid — especially when you’re still living with your folks. Yes, in the grand tradition of depressing coming-of-age “comedies” like the shockingly successful Napoleon Dynamite, comes a little indie ditty by the name of Spooner. But, whereas the 2004 hit with the overrated Jon Heder tends to leave former high school geeks that stayed at home far too long like myself combating an all-too familiar and unwanted bitter taste, 2009’s Spooner actually leaves you feeling optimistic about life in general.
Herman Spooner (Matthew Lillard, forever trying to erase Norville “Shaggy” Rogers from his résumé) is, for lack of a better word, a “manchild.” On the verge of turning the big “Three-O,” Herman is perfectly content with living at his childhood home until the end of days, whilst working a less-than-stellar job as a used car salesman at a local auto dealership. His parents, on the other hand (played by Kate Burton and Happy Gilmore’s Christopher McDonald), are ready to start living their own lives together — and want the proverbial “third wheel” of a son to get his own apartment and starting living his own life for a change.
Although he would never admit to it, Herman (or, “Spooner,” as he prefers to be called) is in a panic over the whole changeover. No longer will he be able to hang out in his backyard fort from grade school. Never again will he have the opportunity to come home and play chess with his dear ol’ dad in the basement all night after work. He even cuts out a picture of a swingin’ stereo system from an advert and claims that it’s a snap of his new apartment (who’s that lady in the picture? Well, that’s just the realtor who set him up with the pad, according to him!) just to “prove” to his folks that he found a place and that he’s really not slacking off. But, he is slacking: Spooner is just a grown-up boy that is terrified of experiencing the life of a single adult.
Naturally, Spooner’s life begins to change one serendipitous afternoon when he offers his assistance to a young lady stranded on the side of the road. Rose (Nora Zehetner) is everything our titular anti-hero has (probably) ever dreamed of in a woman: a beautiful, similarly-aged woman determined to live her life to the fullest by jaunting off to the Philippines for a vacation. Just one encounter with Rose leaves the socially-challenged Spooner determined to make her acquaintance — not so much in a “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” manner; but rather, in a Jerry Maguire-esque “You complete me” kind of way.
As he crosses the various boundaries of “acceptable courting” to get to know the mysterious lass (stalking her at her hotel, while on a date with a completely undesirable and whorish woman his mum has hastily set him up with; sabotaging her car; etc. — you know, the sort of things any guy smitten with a gal might try!), Spooner discovers that Rose is just as frightened of stepping out into the great big scary cosmos that lies in wait as he is. Can these two social rejects find happiness? Better still: can they find that elusive feeling humans have come to dub “love?” But, most importantly of all: can Spooner actually “spoon?” Well, seeing as how this is Spooner’s story, the chances are pretty durn good, but only time — and Spooner’s “questionable” methods of wooing — can only truly tell.
While it didn’t receive the bloated praise of all the critics like films like Juno wound up receiving (which is a shame — as this is an enjoyable dramedy), Spooner delivers in the sense that its characters are very real people. Our protagonist and potential heroine are very timid people; their lives having been so sheltered that they truly don’t know what they’re looking for — even though they know that they are looking for something to make them feel some sort of perfection. Lillard and Zehetner deliver wholly believable performances throughout the offbeat story, while the supporting cast (Shea Whigham does a creepily-notable job as Spooner’s self-righteous-but-altogether-pompous employer; the always great Christopher McDonald; et al) also contribute heavily to this charming flick.
Culled from an extremely limited theatrical release, Maya Entertainment has unleashed Spooner onto DVD in a frivolous and surprisingly barebones issue. The Standard-Definition presentation brings us the moving picture in an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer with a 2.0 Stereo audio selection. The image here is sufficient for all account and purposes, while upgrading a mostly-dialogue-filled soundtrack to a 5.1 would’ve just seemed like a silly thing to do, so I have no complaints in this department whatsoever. The lack of any exclusive Special Features, on the other hand, can almost be seen as call to action against indie movie lovers everywhere — as the disc only boasts a couple of other trailers for other Maya Entertainment home video releases.
In short: while Spooner offers up no Bonus Materials for its legion of soon-to-be newfound fans to revel upon, it’s still a very earnest and sincere film.
Definitely worth a rental — if not a purchase. Plus, never once will you have to see Matthew Lillard interacting with a CGI canine here; if that’s not a plus, I don’t know what is!