Eat Wheaties!, 2021.
Written and Directed by Scott Abramovitch.
Starring Tony Hale, Paul Walter Hauser, Danielle Brooks, Lamorne Morris, Robbie Amell, David Walton, Sarah Burns, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Chalke, Sarah Goldberg, and Alan Tudyk.
Sid Straw’s life unravels as he tries to prove that he was friends with a celebrity in college.
Some stories simply don’t work when they are updated for the social media age, but with Eat Wheaties! writer and director Scott Abramovitch adapts Michael Kun’s short book The Locklear Letters in a manner that robs the entire narrative of its uniqueness. Rather short, that book tells the story of Sid Straw, a social outcast working an unfulfilling job that writes a series of letters to celebrity Heather Locklear in an effort to reconnect when neither of them was famous, which sets off a number of great changes in his life. The book is told from the perspective of only the letters.
In this interpretation, Sid Straw is played by Tony Hale who does his damnedest to ground the maladjusted social behavior into something harmless stemming from loneliness and wasted potential rather than outright creepy. The celebrity he claims to have known is actress Elizabeth Banks, whom he tries to invite to a college reunion that he is ecstatic to be planning. This is attempted by creating a Facebook account (which is necessary towards putting together the reunion) and looking up her blue-checkmark Facebook page, proceeding to comment on pretty much any status hoping that she remembers him from their university days and that she is willing to show up.
Now, most of us already know celebrity Facebook pages are rarely actually run by the celebrity in question. That’s the least of the concerns here, as it becomes repetitive and downright unbelievable watching this man continuing to craft reply after reply on her page. At some point, you think someone would take notice and either show it to Elizabeth Banks, block the person from seeing the page, or other people would reply and tell him it’s a waste of time. This is the Internet, after all, where, unfortunately, the first rule seems to be “be a dick to others”.
Instead, by some lazy contrivances, a friend of a friend happens to know the assistant of Elizabeth Banks, who decides to order and obtain a restraining order despite no actual harassment going on. As ridiculous as that sounds, the script actually tries to play it cool with characters talking about how it’s easy to get a restraining order (spoilers: it’s not). Then some of Sid’s posts begin to go viral, and by that point, I was done because it became clear this script was exploring any avenue possible to reach 90 minutes and finish up the story in a somewhat predictable fashion.
There’s a chance Eat Wheaties! will play better for those that don’t really have a firm grasp on the inner workings of social media culture, which is a good thing because there is genuine warmth to the story being told. Sid is also competently fleshed out as a character (although that might be more to do with Tony Hale’s performance than the script), as a man that has seen better years clinging to popular moments of the past and trying way too hard to impress people in the present, whether it be his brother or a new friend of the opposite sex that he immediately labels as his girlfriend in his phone after one day. He is perpetually chasing instant gratification with an unhealthy amount of effort, and it’s all topped off with an equally unhealthy celebrity obsession for Elizabeth Banks.
Once Eat Wheaties! shifts away from all the Facebook tomfoolery, it becomes a courtroom comedy of all things with the always charismatic Paul Walter Houser as a lawyer defending Sid against the preposterous restraining order. These two provide a few funny moments here and there, but for the most part, the story misses the mark on saying anything really noteworthy about celebrity sycophancy. A scene over the ending credits is also too feel good and ruins the message that’s already failed at being expressed. The film has the heart, just not the intelligence or sharpness to really work as an observational comedy about celebrity worship.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com