Proving once again the infinite mutability of the coming-of-age tale, The Wendell Baker Story, written by Luke and co-directed by Luke and Andrew Wilson, grafts a number of borderline absurd conceits onto a ramshackle story about a small-time con-man trying to make his way in the world. In the dappled sunlight of Austin, Texas, Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) sells fake IDs to immigrants and fails to appreciate his gorgeous girlfriend Doreen (Eva Mendes)–until he gets busted and shipped off to Huntsville Prison, where he comes across a copy of Conrad Hilton’s autobiography and decides to go into the hotel business.
But the “hotel” Wendell is sent to by his parole board is a retirement home under the command of a sadistic head nurse played by brother Owen. The inmates include Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Seymour Cassel as horny old men hiding a secret or two. With their help, Wendell has to thwart evil schemes and win back Doreen. Their adventures are thoroughly ridiculous and enjoyable, but like Doreen, we can see right through Wendell’s goofy charm. The Wendell Baker Story is silly but lovable, occasionally very funny, and no dumber than most movies at the multiplex. It’d be fascinating to see what the Wilsons might come up with if they really tried. Opens May 18.
The Wendell Baker Story. Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson, 2005. ***
- The Wendell Baker Story at Rotten Tomatoes
- The trailer: