Starring: Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, Chi McBride
Director: Bob Odenkirk
Running Time: 84 mins
Let’s Go To Prison is an American film about a criminal who seeks revenge on the judge that has committed him to prison so many times during his life. However, upon learning of the judge’s death, he switches attention to his son, in order to get some sort of satisfaction.
I didn’t expect all that much from this film, what with its premise, cast and all suggesting it’d be little more than a generic comedy. In truth, that’s pretty much what Let’s Go To Prison is, and although it’s not quite an awful film, it still isn’t a properly hilarious or ever particularly interesting watch, worsened by somewhat inconsistent and even often mean-spirited story that makes for a more frustrating watch than should have been the case.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about the comedy, which is (for the most part) not all that bad. Although I can’t say that it’s the most intelligent or witty film ever made, it does often have enough good slapstick and silliness to entertain you throughout, with the most comical elements of the conflict between the two leads proving a good laugh at their silliest.
What’s more is that the two central performances from Dax Shepard and Will Arnett are pretty entertaining too. Their on-and-off relationship makes for some good laughs throughout, while they each give individually entertaining performance, from the bizarre predicament of Shepard’s character who’s filled with rage at his sentencing yet lives in prison like a second home, to the insane development of Arnett’s character from whiney and spoilt heir to a fortune to something completely different.
The problem with the film, however, despite its decent comedy and performances, is that it’s still not all that nice or simply enjoyable a film to watch, something that’s largely to its oddly mean-spirited premise. While it makes sense, seeing a convict sniff an opportunity to take revenge on the man and the system that condemned him to a life of crime before he ever really got going, but the way it’s carried out, with Shepard’s character going after Arnett pretty ruthlessly and in such a short and abrupt space of time. Compound that with the fact that when things change up a bit in the third act, it still all seems a little nasty and disheartening, and the film’s deep attempts to quickly rectify that feel rather forced and ungenuine, something that made the film a rather unpleasant watch for me.
Also, the story feels very inconsistent due to a couple of jarring shifts in tone and character developments. I’ve already mentioned the mean-spirited story, and that also clashes quite heavily with the light-hearted comedic vibe of the film, making the nastier stuff feel even nastier, and the comedy feel all the more out of place. Also, while it has some good, silly moments, the way that the conflict between the two lead characters develops over the course of the whole film is really rather inconsistent and frustrating.
There’s a difference between subverting audience expectations and just being all over the place, because although this story does go to place that you wouldn’t expect at first, the way in which the tone and trajectory of the story switches so abruptly is very frustrating to see and takes your interest away, as anything that you’ve been following since the beginning is pretty much upended by whatever bizarre twist comes next, never rewarding you for your interest and attention.
Overall, I wasn’t all that impressed by Let’s Go To Prison. Despite featuring some good, easy laughs from time to time as well as two enjoyable lead performances, it’s a generally less-than-stellar comedy that, with a both inconsistent and often even somewhat mean-spirited central story, proves a rather frustrating watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6.