New York Times - 05/18/2007
"[A] shambling, good-natured comedy....You'll have no trouble slipping into its easygoing groove, fortified by its country-rock soundtrack."
Box Office - 06/01/2007
"[T]he Wilson brother return to the handmade filmmaking of BOTTLE ROCKET....Luke's script is both funny and poignant..."
Luke Wilson writes and directs (along with his brother, Andrew Wilson) this comedy about a former conman with a heart of gold. Wendell has a way with people, but fails to make the most of his charms, making his money by selling fake ID cards to illegal Mexican immigrants with the help of his partner-in-crime Reyes (Jacob Vargas). When this scam inevitably fails, Wendell Baker is off to jail, where he quickly becomes popular and gets parole. Having had some time to think, Wendell eventually emerges from prison a new man, eager to win back the love (Eva Mendes) he previously took for granted, and who has moved on to a grocery store manager (Will Ferrell). After expressing interest in the hotel business, Wendell is assigned to work at a retirement home run poorly by a corrupt mother and son (Owen Wilson) duo. Wendell makes the most of the situation, finding unexpected wisdom in the elderly people he is caring for, played with spunk by Seymour Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton.
Earning mixed reviews, THE WENDELL BAKER STORY is subdued compared to many of the loud comedies the Wilson's are known for. The film's anti-Hollywood, grainy 1970s aesthetic and its laid back tone may be a jolt to viewers expecting a typical Wilson romp. Deeply invested in its southern location, the Austin, Texas-set feature could pass as a spin-off of television's MY NAME IS EARL. But thankfully the raunchiness here comes from the cast's older members, who deliver their lines with the slow pace of age, but always with a kick. Considering how packed it is with stars, the film ought to add up to more. Despite being packed with talented comedians, THE WENDELL BAKER STORY doesn't seem to strive for anything new and even the funnier scenes feel like ones we've seen before.