As this film ‘The Best and the Brightest’ opens up we see the Jerzinski’s, I think that’s how you spell that last name, beats the hell out of me… but we see these people leaving their home state of Delaware on their way to the Big Apple. The music that’s playing in the background is sunny and happy and color palette that director Josh Shelov is using for his movie is bright and cheerful and one would think that we are going to be in the middle of a bright and cheerful, sunny, happy family movie, especially with the cute kid in the back seat. You are not going to get this with ‘The Best and the Brightest’. The truth of the matter is that ‘The Best and the Brightest’ is fairly depraved. But it always remains sunny and cheerful and that music remains bright and happy no matter what kind of depraved nonsense is going on in the background and this is one of the things that made this little comedy so damn funny to me.
The Jerzinski’s consist of Jeff (Doogie Howser), his wife Samantha (Bonnie Summerville) and their five year old daughter Beatrice (Amelia Talbot). Just so you know, Doogie cracked liked two jokes in this movies first two minutes before they even got out of the car which made me laugh, so that’s a dang good sign right there. The reason the Jerzinski’s are in New York is because Samantha is feeling life slipping away and just wants one more chance to make it. I’m not exactly sure what Samantha wants to do in New York, outside of nothing much, but here she is.
The first order of business for Samantha is to find a private school for young Beatrice, but apparently in New York City, Kindergarten private school registrations start in gestation. What Samantha needs is some external influence and for that she hires Sue (Amy Sedaris), a personal private school admissions assistant. The two ladies form a bond over cheap wine and begin the process of getting Beatrice into the most exclusive Kindergarten school in New York City. One with an admission price of like 30g. Insane.
The problem is that Jeff’s job as a computer program lacks the pizzazz necessary to gain admission so Sue turns him into a poet, despite Jeff’s vehement protestations. In one of those wacky situations that only happens in movies, Jeff’s buddy Clark (Peter
Serifinowicz) likes to print out his profane, sexually charged text messages, one of which he let Jeff read. Right before the interview. Somehow this text message got into Beatrice’s folder. The school head mistress Ms. Heilman (Jenna Stern) thought this profane, sexually laden text message to be a representation of Jeff’s poetry. She also believed it to be brilliant. From that point on a whole lot of stuff happens but rest assured, to the surprise of no one that chaos, mayhem, wackiness, zaniness, and mad shenanigans shall ensue en masse.
One of the problems that we often have with these movies that we watch is that sometimes they just take themselves far too serious. If the movie is ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ then we get the serious tone of a movie but otherwise a lighter tone is sometimes the best way to go. You don’t have to worry about being bogged down in the seriousness of it all with ‘The Best and the Brightest’ because this movie is about as irreverent as they come. It takes nothing seriously. Not this is all that surprising when you look at director Josh Shelov’s rather light directing dossier which largely includes being behind the camera for episodes of Kenny Mayne’s ‘Mayne Street’. You want irreverence? Then you want Kenny Mayne and ‘Mayne Street’.
But why was this movie so funny. At least to me, which is all that really matters, right? For starters the dialog is rapid fire quick and consistently clever. A lot of the better jokes come in the middle of conversations and if you don’t pay attention you just might miss them. In fact if I watched a movie a second time, which I never do and don’t plan to do with this one, you could probably catch a whole new round of missed jokes. Also this movie was filled with funny people doing funny stuff and it’s also filled with good actors who aren’t traditionally funny, but now how to work with funny people. I mean Kate Mulgrew isn’t all that funny, I don't think, but she sure knows how to set up a joke for Christopher McDonald who is very funny. Ever since Doogie Howser hitched that ride from Harold and Kumar a few years back we were given an actor that we could see has a sense of comic timing and a latent sense humor like few actors before him. Man, when Doogie got on TV and said he was gay, even that was funny. I almost believed him. Naturally Amy Sedaris has one of the sharpest wits of any person living and Peter Serifinowicz is just flat out a good actor.
But the majority of the good stuff went to Christopher McDonald as the ultra conservative chairman of the board of this school. Or Mr. McDonald stole the majority of the good stuff, but either way I’m sure the other actors in this exercise would like to have their movie back.
For my money ‘The Best and the Brightest’ is borderline comic genius in that it plays it straight for maximum comedic effect when necessary, it goes over the top for comedic effect when it is called for, it’s offensive at times but not overly so and watching the character Jeff recite the love smut in that crowded room with the Mary Poppins music playing in the background was inspired. Admittedly there’s probably not a lot of substance here, but I believe that’s what ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ are for.