Review: Unplugging

Score: C-

Director: Debra Neil-Fisher

Cast: Matt Walsh, Eva Longoria, Keith David, Lea Thompson

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rated: R

We could all use time away from our devices. Having access to the entirety of the internet at all times of day has definitely had a negative impact on all of us. Whether it's doomscrolling on Twitter, comparing ourselves to the seemingly perfect people on Instagram, or blurring the line between work time and personal time, the once-useful tech has us glued, ignoring the people around us and our environment. All this is to say that Unplugging has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately, its funny bone is nowhere to be found. This ostensible romantic comedy has no big laughs. I mildly chuckled at a gag here and there. But this was mostly a dire affair that strands good, funny actors in a lousy movie.

Matt Walsh (the hilarious character actor, not the annoying blogger) takes the lead this time as Dan. He loves his family and the niche he's carved for himself, making hot sauce in the garage. His wife Jeanine (Eva Longoria) is a workaholic. Even when she's not returning emails at 3am, she still buries her face in her iPad. (Yes, you will see more Apple branded devices than at a launch event in Cupertino.)

After Dan's friend (Al Madrigal) dies unexpectedly, he takes it upon himself to live in the moment, doing spontaneous and risky things like adopting a pet skunk. His out-of-character behavior pushes Jeanine to agree to a weekend retreat in a small town with shaky cell reception and no WiFi. Of course this town is populated by weirdoes like a conspiratorial driver (Lea Thompson) and a pushy restaurateur (Keith David). And drones. Lots and lots of drones, in a gag that gets less funny the more it gets repeated. I half-expected the couple to uncover an actual conspiracy, but that would have at least made the film interesting.

Alas, the couple's car dies and they find themselves wandering the woods arguing with each other for a good chunk of the runtime. Unfortunately, there's little substance here either. It also doesn't help that a movie with a similar premise debuted just two years ago (Save Yourselves!) and pulled it off much better.

Instead of recharging your battery with laughter, this movie drains you. You're better off taking a 90-minute walk outdoors.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.