With his debut film, “Eat Wheaties!,” Scott Abramovitch has wrangled the kind of cast that most first-time directors dream of: a who’s-who of TV comedy that includes Tony Hale (“Arrested Development,” “Veep”), Elisha Cuthbert, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Chalke and Alan Tudyk. But what Abramovitch does with such a lineup is an unfortunate, unfunny mess.
Hale plays a sad office worker named Sid Straw who, while organizing his University of Pennsylvania class reunion, sets up a Facebook account for the first time and becomes obsessed with getting in touch with his old classmate: the Hollywood star Elizabeth Banks. (Her supposed catchphrase from college, “Eat Wheaties!,” informs the title.)
Too much of the film’s foundational joke falls on Sid creating a Facebook account — a digital preoccupation that feels stale from the get-go. In real life, Sid has the kind of uncomfortable presence that makes this cringe comedy all cringe and no comedy. His inability to read social cues lands him in hot water when his incessant and desperate — and very much public — wall posts to Elizabeth Banks go viral, setting off a restraining order from Banks’s team and a firing from his job.
Sid lawyers up with the cheapest — and the most inept — attorney possible (played by Paul Walter Hauser, the film’s small highlight) and eventually restores his reputation as a nice, albeit awkward, guy. But by reclaiming Sid’s character, the movie gives a pass to, and perhaps even endorses, online harassment masked as “well-intentioned” conduct, something most women on social media, myself included, are likely familiar with.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters and on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.