All Nighter is the kind of film that likely relied entirely on the selling power of its cast to get made. Told through the eyes of a man forced to spend a night searching Los Angeles for his ex-girlfriend with her comically stern father, the latest film from Gavin Wiesen has all the originality of a mid-1990s sitcom, but (sadly) none of the humor.
Emile Hirsch stars as Martin, a banjo player living a decidedly unfulfilled life in the city of angels. When we first meet Martin he is having a disastrous meal with his then girlfriend, Ginnie (Annaleigh Tipton), and her workaholic father (J.K. Simmons). It is clear Ginnie’s dad does not believe Martin is good enough for his daughter, and by the time the meal is over you get the sense Ginnie may feel the same.
Fast-forward six months and one breakup later, Martin is now living with a crazy roommate in the home he and Ginnie once shared. Her father appears out of the blue, claiming to have not been able to reach Ginnie for several days, and asks Martin for help. He does not know that Martin is no longer with Ginnie at first, but Martin’s decision to tell him does not change the fact he needs to find Ginnie. Martin agrees to help, in part because he still has hope for his fractured relationship, and the two set off to find where Ginnie could have gone.
You may be thinking the worst about Ginnie’s disappearance, and if it is I can ease your might Ginnie is never in any trouble, which is a good thing because you also never really get the sense Martin and her father fear that may be the case. Though it takes the pair nearly an hour of screen time to solve her disappearance there is never a moment when you have reason to worry about her whereabouts. It’s more a matter of deduction, and with each oddball friend of Ginnie the pair encounter they believe they are getting one step closer to the truth. A truth which, as you can probably imagine, will inevitably alter the course of our character’s lives.
The dramatic depth of All Nighter is surface level at best, which would be fine if a single joke landed as well as it should. All the pieces needed for comedy magic are in place, but none of it develops in a memorable way. The chemistry between Hirsch and Simmons, upon which the entire film rides, never gets off the ground. Both actors are extremely overqualified for a movie this basic, and as a result they never have a chance to do the things that make them so compelling to watch. Simmons is a parody of himself, and Hirsch constantly expresses himself in a manner I can only described as a failed attempt at a humorous twist on his signature stare of dramatic uncertainty.
All Nighter simply doesn’t work. What should be a walk in the park for everyone involved somehow morphs into an avalanche of comedic shortcomings that not even an outspoken appreciation – not to mention fantastic cover – of Bob Seger’s classic hit “Night Moves” can cure. It’s not so much an outright failure as it is watchable and regrettably forgettable, which may be an even worse fate. A total failure at least has the decency to laughably bad.