By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 11, 2012 at 6:46PM
Patton Oswalt has built up a decent amount of goodwill for himself, whether it's because of the the award-season campaign for his performance in last year's "Young Adult" or his other recent acting turns. His latest effort is "Nature Calls," in which he plays Randy, a scoutmaster with newly acquired leadership responsibilities trying to bring in unwilling recruits. Written and directed by Todd Rohal and starring a bevy of other comedic talent, "Nature Calls" is a premiere that's drawing reviews disproportionate to its pedigree.
Jason Bailey praises Oswalt's performance, saying that "he brings a real presence to what could have been a one-note role (it’s certainly written as one), projecting a sense of a life lived, and presumably filled with disappointments." But he explains that his nuance gets lost in the wrong hands. "Rohan’s filmmaking is oddly choppy," Bailey says of the film's director. "We often seem to be joining scenes in progress (and not in a good way), and his sequences slam into each other uneasily. He can’t seem to get a handle on his tonal shifts either."
Joe Leydon of Variety echoes the latter sentiments indicating frenzied filmmaking. "Some abrupt transitions and a couple of barely developed subplots indicate last-minute editing-room surgery," he writes.
Other critics are pointing at the script, arguing that the comedy comes in spite of monodimensional writing. Over at The Playlist, James Rocchi unleashed more than a few barbs, chief among them, "That's all it really offers -- lines, not structure or story or any character worth caring about. It's full of people who don't act like people. If Rohal was going for scabrous, take-no-prisoners satire -- and you could argue that with his array of immensely unlikable characters, he's shooting for it -- then he needed to tidy up his story."
If there's another redeeming element of the film besides Oswalt, it's the work of actor and comedian Patrice O'Neal, in one of his last roles before his untimely passing late last year. In his SXSW roundup, Sean O'Connell writes that "O’Neal steals virtually every scene of this story," even though "there are two big laughs...a handful of worthy jokes from O’Neal, and too many missed opportunities when all is said and done."
Instant Twitterverse Reaction:
"NATURE CALLS is another wildly inconsistent Rohal effort. Rare moments of hilarity amongst heinousness. Not even P.Oswalt can save it." - Ryland Aldrich, TwitchFilm
"NATURE CALLS has several good, hearty laughs in it, but they're surrounded by a steady, fragrant stream of meh." - Eric D. Snider
"'Nature Calls' was ridiculous, absurd and really funny (at certain moments) - Patrice O'Neal steals the show" - Adam Frazier, Moviehole
"Nature Calls was a loony r-rated riot. Some walkouts from people likely put off by the humor." - Nigel M. Smith, Indiewire
"Big laughs in NATURE CALLS. Crazy, dark, inappropriate. Reminds me of the Griswolds' in their glory days." - Fred Topel, CraveOnline
"Nature Calls (D) Painful boy scout comedy w/Patton Oswalt & Johnny Knoxville as feuding brothers. Only Rob Riggle comes out unscathed." - Cory Everett, The Playlist