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An enjoyable offbeat comedy where Kevin Kline shines

The Extra Man: Rates a B.
Courtesy photo

There’s a scene where a 92-year-old wealthy widow is having dinner with a few suitors at the Russian Tea Room. They are throwing small tantrums and she’s loudly sipping champagne with a straw. I thought – dinner for rich schmucks.

This is the story about an eccentric, poor playwrite played by Kevin Kline. It’s like a kooky version of Otto from A Fish Called Wanda. Otto was too “stupid” to appreciate the opera. In this, Kline is too poor to buy tickets (but he finds creative ways of getting in).

His new roommate is Paul Dano (Kline tells him he’s the perfect match, as he’s the only one who has answered the ad that can speak English). But he really is the perfect roommate. They immediately talk about literature they enjoy. In fact, Dano enjoys literature so much, he fancies his life an F. Scott Fitzgerald style novel (complete with wardrobe to match, and a running narration in his head).

I don’t usually care for the cadence Dano has, or his look (maybe I liked him so much in Little Miss Sunshine because he spent most of the movie as a mute). His awkwardness in this film works perfectly for his character – a professor that is fired for trying on a bra in the teachers lounge.

His fascination with cross dressing leads to a scene with a woman he finds in a sleazy magazine ad – and it’s as awkward and funny as when Matthew Broderick sees a prostitute in Biloxi Blues.

John C. Reilly has a few interesting scenes as the bizarre neighborwho collects knick-knacks and sings opera in the shower (among other things).

Some people are bothered by this collection of eccentric weirdos – but that’s the beauty of a comedy that has funny jokes. You can let these things slide because you’re laughing so hard (at least I, and the audience I saw this with, did).

Katie Holmes knocks it out of the park as a Vegan snob (is that redundant?). And I didn’t even recognize the talented character actor Dan Hedaya with his thick accent.

But the movie really belongs to Kline, who talks about great authors (while looking like Mark Twain); and I think he has an Oscar nomination sealed with this wacky performance. It’s one of those rare times where I can’t think of another actor pulling it off. Steve Martin might have come close, but as strange as this sounds, it wouldn’t have been as funny. Kline has that Shakespearian, aristocrat voice that seems to channel Jiminy Glick at some points.

The music was a nice blend of classical pieces (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons), as well as T. Rex and Velvet Underground songs that fit nicely in this New York setting.

And there’s a nice song from Katie Holmes, who before the protest of a cement company, practices on acoustic guitar while singing: We all lament/this business of cement.

This is an offbeat comedy that everyone should enjoy. Well, aside from David Letterman. His “Oprah-Uma” joke was used with a Louis and Louise. And it worked.

If you see this you’ll laugh a minimum of 10 times (which is five times more than Dinner for Schmucks, and eight times more than The Other Guys). If you don’t, I’ll give you free movie tickets.

I’m giving this a B.