Meeting the parent of a girlfriend (or boyfriend) face-to-face can be a nerve-wracking experience. Just imagine for a second that the figure on the opposite end of the dinner table is none other than Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, with his booming voice that can spew rapid fire wordy insults with ease. That’s the opening scene of All Nighter, the new comedy from director Gavin Wiesen, which won’t win any points for originality but is able to coast by on the charms of its leading odd couple duo as they explore the streets of Los Angeles in search of a missing woman.
The opening dinner of All Nighter features Martin (Emile Hirsch), a slacker musician, alongside his girlfriend Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton) to meet her father Mr. Gallo (Simmons). Aside from being uncomfortable at the stern visage staring him down, Martin also feels out of place in the fancy restaurant that Mr. Gallo has chosen. The evening goes as disastrously as could be expected, with Martin being grilled over his lack of ambition and his musical prowess with the banjo.
Three months later, Martin and Ginnie are no longer together, leaving the musician in a sad sack malaise. Then one morning Mr. Gallo comes pounding on the door. He’s unaware that their relationship has crumbled, but seeks Martin’s help in finding her as he’s been unable to reach her for days. This sets the two on a journey to follow a series of scant clues in search of Ginnie, leading a variety of misunderstandings, a few fist fights, a lot of dead ends, and the planting of the seeds for an unusual friendship.
Over the course of the journey in the script by Seth W. Owen, Martin and Mr. Gallo encounter a number of oddballs and eccentrics along the streets of Los Angeles, including a comically feuding couple played by Kristen Schaal and Taran Killam. And yet it isn’t the variety of goofballs that the duo encounters that provide most of the laughs from All Nighter. The laughs in the film come from the interactions between Simmons and Hirsch, with the former often delivering snide insults with a casual ease. There’s an odd couple sensibility about these two characters that you could find in a variety of movies but the chemistry between these two actors carries the film even when it goes down the road most taken.
Gavin Wiesen brings a sturdy directorial style to All Nighter, neither overtly showy nor bewildering in its construction. You get the sense that Wiesen really trusts his actors to breathe life into the material, and for the most part it works. My only real gripe is that the script by Owen was desperately in need of another polish to punch up some of the dialogue that isn’t shared by its two leads. Most of the supporting characters who are supposed to flavor the search for Ginnie genuinely feel like archetypes just dropped in when necessary. I will say that All Nighter does pull off the best use of Collective Soul’s “Shine” ever attempted on the screen, and is probably the best layered joke in the movie.
There’s a formula behind All Nighter that isn’t all too original but the life that J.K. Simmons and Emile Hirsch bring to the formula make up for the lack of originality on display. Hirsch holds his own opposite Simmons, who is among one of the most reliable actors working today, and the two create a dynamic that entertains amidst a fairly rote script that wraps up proceedings all too neatly at the end. There’s nothing you can do about a silly little happy ending, and it doesn’t matter much if you enjoy the ride that comes before it. Thankfully, the ride of All Nighter is perfectly enjoyable.