In an alternate reality, The Wendall Baker Story, written and directed by Luke Wilson (with brother Andrew) would be quirky, clever and a charming homage to the lazy Texas lads of the 70's. In reality the film tries too hard to be quirky, charming and clever, and barely achieves even "lazy".
The story is cliché...Ex-con goes straight to win the girl and ultimately saves the day. Luke plays the Texan, Wendall Baker, with his "aw shucks" demeanor and barely invites a second glance into the depth which needs to be shown by this character. When your hero is a slacker by nature, he should show us more than smirks and shallow one-liners. This does not happen with Luke Wilson. Unfortunately, I am not sure that is in his acting capabilities. Do not totally dismiss The Wendall Baker Story. There are some amazing cameos by Will Ferrell as the
new boyfriend to Wendall's ex, played by hottie Eva Mendes, and Kris Kristofferson as a Howard Hughes character. Seymour Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton garnish a few chuckles as virile members of the retirement home/hotel run by the totally under used Owen Wilson. Owen gets to play the villain, but maybe because of time or just unfortunate writing, it is such a one dimensional character that scenes that should reek of Wes Anderson lasciviousness, seem just mean spirited and lacking in creativity.
The one part of the movie that demonstrates that the Wilson brothers definitely have their hearts deep in Texas is the soundtrack. Willie, Waylon, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride and Billie Joe Shaver, who also plays a very small cameo role, are played throughout. Sometimes, something as simple as the music can make the whole ride, such as The Wendall Baker Story, seem a little less bumpy. However, sometimes being just smooth enough makes one quite forgettable. The Wendall Baker Story makes it feel okay to waste a Sunday afternoon watching a DVD. You could probably rearrange your 70's country album collection while doing so. The Wilsons are no strangers to hip, young Hollywood, but that doesn't make them clever. And, Luke, you can never take back Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde II: Red, White and Blonde. Take that, deep to the heart of Texas.