The Baxter

A "Baxter" is the perennial also-ran in movie relationships. He is the nice guy that is always left at the altar, and he gets the girl only when he's dumped by the handsome, suave jerk. Elliot Sherman is a Baxter, and a big one at that. He's an accountant, dresses like a nerd, and is socially awkward. Still, he's a genuinely nice guy with horrible luck at relationships. The Baxter, written and directed by Showalter (Signs, Kissing Jessica Stein) is a sometimes-amusing look at the side of relationships typically left off the movie screen.

Anchoring it is Showalter, who pays up the nerd image. He speaks oddly with a nasal voice, and looks uncomfortable in nearly every social situation. So it's very odd that he is soon to marry Caroline Swann (Elizabeth Banks, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Heights). Swann is smart, has a great job, is personable, and beautiful. Why is she with Showalter? This is The Baxter's biggest flaw. Showalter never explains why the two would start dating in the first place. The movie begins with her leaving him at the altar, then jumps back to when they first met. Then it jumps forward to when they were seriously dating. Missing is any indication of them falling in love or getting to know each other. This leaves the audience at a loss when Sherman acts really annoying around Swann, and she tolerates all of it.

Sherman is distraught when Swann's ex-boyfriend Bradley Lake (Justin Theroux, Duplex, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) reappears in her life. If the past is any indication, this is the hint sign that Sherman's relationship with Swann is coming to an end. He panics, and tries to do everything he can to save it. He completely ignores Cecil Mills (Michelle Williams, Imaginary Heroes, The Station Agent), the quirky temp who reappears in his life a year later. He is the only person that cannot see that she is his perfect soul mate.

While Sherman acts like a moron in front of an increasingly perplexed Swann and Lake, Mills throws obvious hints at a clueless Sherman. There is a certain charm to The Baxter in that you are rooting for the underdog, but again, it all boils down to the Sherman character. He is with Swann because Showalter put them together. The entire situation feels constructed, only to make Sherman do embarrassing things (unlike Jump Tomorrow, which had a more organic feel to it). That said, there are some amusing moments in the film, due primarily to the cluelessness of Sherman and his friends. Showalter comes close to mocking them, but is able to stay on the good-natured side of things. Paul Rudd (The 40 Year Old Virgin, P.S.) and Peter Dinklage (Elf, The Station Agent), playing a character named Benson Hedges, also show up for some amusing moments. But while amusing, The Baxter never quite reaches the level of funny.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief sexual humor and some drug references.

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