Remember all those “Pulp Fiction” wannabes a decade ago — the ones with name ensemble casts, wacky characters, beaucoup shootouts and self-consciously colorful, rat-a-tat dialogue?
Add to the list the tardy – and not especially notable — "Flypaper.” And if it feels a little stale, there’s a good reason: The script was written a dozen years ago by the then aspiring screenwriting team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, a duo now red hot after the blockbuster success two years ago of “The Hangover.”
“Flypaper,” which screened at the Sundance Film Festival last winter, is about a bank robbery. Make that two robberies.
A trio of elite thieves (Mekhi Phifer, John Ventimiglia and Matt Ryan), equipped with the latest in high tech gadgetry, enter a large metropolitan bank intending to empty the vault. Arriving simultaneously are a doofus duo (Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vance) — these rubes have taken as their noms de crime “Peanut Butter” and “Jelly” — with plans to blow up the ATMs.
Caught in the middle are a bank clerk (Ashley Judd), a brainy customer (Patrick Dempsey) who suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a handful of others (including Octavia Spencer and Jeffrey Tambor), all of whom are taken hostage.
It soon becomes clear, as corpses start turning up, that someone, whether a hostage or a robber, is harboring secrets. Like 1985's "Clue" and various Agatha Christie house party mysteries, “Flypaper” wants the audience to trust no one.
Sadly, “Flypaper” is neither clever nor funny enough to make a viewer care. Director Rob Minkoff (“Stuart Little”) keeps the action moving briskly but the characters, despite an overload of colorful quirks, remain artificial conceits.
Dempsey lays on his character’s nervous tics a tad thick, while a weary-looking Judd simply doesn’t have enough to do. It’s a plight shared by much of the rest of the cast. When even Spencer, a practiced comedy scene-stealer who’s currently giving a starmaking turn as Minnie in “The Help,” barely registers, there’s a problem.
If you were home flipping channels late at night and came across “Flypaper,” you might snack on it for a while. But served up as a feature film, on a big screen and at $12 a ticket, it’s a mighty thin and derivative slice of moviemaking.