By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn August 21, 2008 at 2:16AM
Rainn Wilson poses for me before our interview at the News Corp. building.
There are two comedies opening this weekend that I can't recommend for any reason other than the charisma of their stars. The Rocker, a dopey School of Rock knock-off, stars Rainn Wilson as one of those forty-year-old drummer types who can't grow up, so he joins his high school nephew's halfway decent band instead. There are very little laugh-out-loud moments, and a movie like this desperately needs a lot of them. (You can read more of my thoughts on the movie in my review for New York Press.) Wilson, on the other hand -- well, if you've encountered his fantastically bizarre performance as Dwight on NBC's The Office, then you know the story of his abilities. I had the chance to sit down with Wilson in midtown Manhattan earlier this month, where I found him amiable, assertive and not particularly funny. Actually, he's a pretty serious dude with some pretty serious career ambitions, and he spent a long time chasing them before anything came of it.
I was quite amazed to learn that he resided for awhile in crappy apartments throughout Brooklyn, particularly Williamsburg, during his drama school days. "I didn't live in the hip part of Williamsburg," Wilson told me. "I lived in the abandoned warehouse part of Williamsburg. The Montrose stop." Uh...that's where I live. "Wow, you live there?" Wilson exclaimed. "So people are living there now? Wow, it was not safe when I was there." Oh yeah, it's pretty safe now. Actually, East Williamsburg is inching toward upscale what with all the condos springing up and... "There are condos there now!" Wilson blurted out. "That is strange. When I was there, there was nothing but wild dogs and junkies." Which explains his inspiration during all those farm scenes on The Office. Read my interview with him in Cinematical here.
Oh, what's that other mediocre movie with the star to watch? The House Bunny. A colorful distraction of a college movie that doesn't quite work -- although it tries really hard -- it still spotlights the remarkable appeal of Anna Faris, one of the few female actresses able to generate an appealing screen presence in pretty much anything. I spoke to her for Premiere. While we were supposed to chat about The House Bunny, I kept bringing up the great Smiley Face, Gregg Araki's inaugural foray into comedy and Faris' best performance to date. A stoner comedy about an indolent young women who displays absolutely no sexual appetite and fills not a single stereotype...come now, that's historic! The House Bunny takes the opposite track, with Faris as a seemingly moronic model from the Playboy Mansion. Her histrionics are clearly an attempt to deflate the dumb blond stereotype, but the script itself fails at that goal because it's, well, dumb. But Faris is quite smart, as you can see in this interview.