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Somebody Up There Likes Me DVD Review

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2013) movie poster Somebody Up There Likes Me

Theatrical Release: March 8, 2013 / Running Time: 75 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Bob Byington

Cast: Keith Poulson (Max Youngman), Nick Offerman (Sal), Jess Weixler (Lyla Youngman), Stephanie Hunt (Clarissa), Marshall Bell (Lyla's Dad), Jonathan Togo (Adult Lyle), Kate Lyn Sheil (Ex-Wife), Kevin Corrigan (Memorial Man), Megan Mullally (Therapist), Anna Margaret Hollyman (Paula), Ted Beck (Steakhouse Patron/Homeless Man),Bob Schneider (Wedding Singer), Chris Doubek (Businessman), Mike Wachs (Car Rental Employee), Alex Ross Perry (First Customer), Gabriel Keller (Lyle - Age 5), Ian Graffunder (Lyle - Age 10), Jake Lewis (Lyle - Age 15)

Buy Somebody Up There Likes Me from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Bob Byington has been writing and directing feature films for seventeen years, but there's a good chance you're not yet familiar with his work. Byington makes independent comedies that typically play a couple of festivals and then receive at best an extremely limited theatrical release.
If you add up the IMDb vote counts of all seven of his directorial credits, you get 1,134 votes, or about a fifth of what a visible indie film has amassed this year. Lifting that count to a fourth figure is Byington's latest film, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which by IMDb at least is his most-seen to date, with 471 users rating it on the database's 1-10 score. Box Office Mojo estimates the film sold 11,200 tickets from the three theaters that played it from March to April, which again appears to be a personal best for Byington.

Somebody centers on Max Youngman (Keith Poulson), an aimless, socially awkward young man who is soon divorced after trying to give his wife flowers stolen from a roadside memorial. On the advice of a stranger, the adult son (Kevin Corrigan) of the deceased, Max quickly puts himself back on the market and then takes himself off by marrying Lyla (Jess Weixler), an equally awkward co-worker known for her appreciation of crunchy breadsticks, which she eats with small bites.

Socially awkward waiters Lyla (Jess Weixler) and Max (Keith Poulson) swiftly marry in the indie comedy "Somebody Up There Likes Me."

Though momentarily happy, Max continues to drift through life, waiting tables and washing dishes at a steakhouse called Flanagan's alongside his bearded, chain-smoking sage and only friend Sal ("Parks and Recreation"'s Nick Offerman). The film repeatedly jumps ahead five years, making Max a father and then an adulterer as he is tempted by his son's pretty, young brunette nanny Clarissa (Stephanie Hunt). Soon after, Max is divorced for a second time and living with Clarissa, who proves to be a remote control hogger. At one point, Max has money, inherited upon the death of Lyla's humorless cop father (Marshall Bell). Then he's mostly broke, when the money is seized. But, he put away some, so he opens a restaurant with Sal called Pizza and Ice Cream, which is an instant failure turned giant success.

Somebody is indie to its core, practically daring critics not to describe it as "quirky" and "offbeat." I can't pretend to have any familiarity with Byington's previous outings, but this one is an interesting effort. It's rare to encounter an indie comedy that isn't essentially a dramedy, but I think this qualifies. It's amusing on occasion, as it mines chuckles from word confusion, subverted expectations, and, of course, awkward interactions. It's never laugh-out-loud funny, but it is kind of wry and smart. Alas, it's also pretty depressing with its depiction of lives that never cease to be anything but spectacularly unfulfilling at every check-in. While viewers should be able to relate to the protagonist, sympathizing with him is a greater challenge and he's the only conceivable target for such emotional investment.

There's also an inherited Pulp Fiction-type mysterious glowing suitcase which gives the film a rare bit of whimsy. Based on his minimal exposure and stunted track record, Byington seems to be making movies for the heck of it, neither wanting to reach a huge audience nor caring that his work will go largely unseen. This one didn't even bother to get the R rating it deserves from the MPAA. Maybe there's some kind of niche market where low-budget fare can make money nowadays or maybe Byington just enjoys making movies with his friends, as cast members like Offerman and Corrigan always come back, no matter how high their profiles rise. As an additional vote of confidence, Offerman even makes his feature producing debut here.

Clarissa the nanny (Stephanie Hunt) reveals herself to be a remote control hog. Max (Keith Poulson) and best friend Sal (Nick Offerman) smile at the hatching of an idea for a pizza and ice cream joint.

This movie suggests Byington is an easygoing filmmaker, one who doesn't really sweat details (the movie advances over twenty years with erratic aging of some characters beyond the intended story design, ending in the future with only minor hints to that) or runtimes
(this brisk, fast-moving flick wraps up at 75 minutes, while past ones have been as short as 59) or audience satisfaction. His IMDb profile shot of him on a set with a cat in his lap suggests he's in this business to have a good time and if you happen to like what he does, that's cool, and if you start watching this and give up halfway in, that's probably cool too.

It's tough to formulate an opinion about something that, like its antihero, is so casual and apathetic, at times more resembling an improvised cable television series than a theatrical feature film. About half the time, I was thinking this Byington guy is giving off a promising Woody Allen vibe. The other half, I was convinced he was just killing time with friends, shirking advice to grow up and get a real job. To produce both of those reactions, sometimes mere minutes apart, is unusual, but then that seems to be the highest compliment you could pay this little-known filmmaker.

Somebody Up There Likes Me DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $26.95
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video


I know this is standard definition and a low-budget film, but Somebody could look better than it does. The digital video is soft and tad fuzzy throughout. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is adequate, not really commanding attention for anything more but a recurring brassy score theme by Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio and some prominent songs. Two areas where Tribeca Film's DVD stand to improve: an alternate 2.0 stereo mix is selected by default and closed captions are provided rather than English SDH subtitles.

Jason Schwartzman moderates a Cinemafamily Q & A session with Nick Offerman and writer/director Bob Byington. Nick Offerman conducts a short interview from his woodworking shop.


The DVD's extras are supposed to begin with an audio commentary by writer-director Bob Byington and actor-producer Nick Offerman. Instead, we get Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead discussing a Tribeca Film called Resolution.
Is this an epic blunder or some kind of anti-comedy joke? I suspect the former (as we even sometimes hear this horror movie's soundtrack under them), but how did no one bother to notice the mistake?! Another question that lingers is whether Offerman and Byington will then be heard on Resolution's DVD, which is releasing next month? Benson and Moorhead are abruptly cut short, their movie running eighteen minutes longer than this one.

Byington and Offerman actually do participate in a Q & A session (27:15) conducted at Los Angeles' Cinemafamily at the Silent Movie Theatre and moderated, for no apparent reason, by actor Jason Schwartzman. They discuss the film's conception, Offerman's interest in it, the movie's messages, music, and funding, crew members borrowed from Terrence Malick, and "soft sequels." Audience questions are left inaudible, rather than being transcribed, as is typically the case for such pieces.

Next comes a three-minute interview of Offerman alone, in which he sings the praises of his collaborators and discusses making his producing debut.

Although she's not in the movie, "Community"'s Allison Brie pitches in to promote it in three deliberately random shorts. In a blunder I've never before seen, selecting the highlighted listing actually plays an audio commentary for a horror movie called "Resolution."

Finally and most bizarrely, we get three untitled promos for the film featuring Offerman, his wife Megan Mullally (who has a small supporting role), "Community"'s Alison Brie (Offerman's co-star in a different 2013 indie), Adam Scott, Stephanie Hunt, and, very briefly, Amy Poehler. The first (1:14) finds Offerman, Brie, and Mullally smoking out of bongs.
The second (4:23) has Scott concerned that woodworking has Offerman holding up "Parks and Rec", only to get a musical number about the value of "weed and pussy" in indie films. The third (2:13) has Offerman and Scott and others conduct interviews of one another. Seemingly the handiwork of Offerman, you expect better from the guy who plays one of television's funniest characters than these tone-deaf, stupid sketches. I'm just glad I didn't see them before the movie, as they would have turned me off from watching it.

The disc opens with trailers for The Comedy, Supporting Characters, and War Witch. Regrettably, these are not accessible by menu, nor is Somebody's own trailer included.

The static, silent menus take their cartoony imagery and bright color palette from the packaging, which presumably itself is a nod to the film's infrequent transitional animation.

The black keepcase holds an insert promoting Tribeca Film and is topped by a cardboard slipcover reproducing the same artwork below.

Max Youngman (Keith Poulson) lines his head up with a bathroom mirror sombrero in "Somebody Up There Likes Me."


The super-quirky comedy Somebody Up There Likes Me has its moments, but not quite enough to render it a sufficiently diverting jaunt. Though it's brisk, original, and different, it won't leave you feeling the way that good comedies do.

The DVD delivers an unremarkable feature presentation, a decent Q & A, some off-putting promos, and an audio commentary for the wrong movie. It's sort of a one-of-a-kind disc, which I can't strongly recommend.

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Reviewed September 19, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Tribeca Film, Faliro House, M-13 Pictures, Cinedigm, and New Video.
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