Eric D. Snider

Joe Somebody

Tell me if this sounds familiar: A well-meaning but weak man is embarrassed by a bully in front of his family, vows to get revenge by fighting the guy, and in the process of preparing, his family gains new respect for him, he becomes a better person, and he realizes violence is not the answer. In the end, everyone is proud of everyone, and there are hugs all around.

It's a sitcom, right? One half-hour episode of a TV sitcom. Right?

No, sucker! It's an entire FULL-LENGTH MOVIE, called "Joe Somebody." It's three times as long as a TV sitcom, but with just as much depth, a bit more swearing, and probably fewer laughs. You won't like it, but it's my job to tell you about it anyway, so I will.

Tim Allen plays Joe Scheffer, a nobody who gets slapped around by a mean guy (Patrick Warburton) in his company's parking lot, with his daughter Natalie (Hayden Panettiere) as a witness. He tells the guy he's going to fight him in three weeks to avenge his honor, and in the meantime seeks the martial-arts expertise of a washed-up action-movie actor (James Belushi).

Also in the meantime, he becomes an office celebrity. Everyone hates the bully, and even though Joe hasn't actually stood up to him yet, they're glad he's planning to. He becomes a Somebody, and a co-worker named Meg (Julie Bowen) starts to fall in love with him.

The movie is from first-time writer John Scott Shepherd, and director John Pasquin. Pasquin previously directed Allen in the "Home Improvement" TV show, as well as in "The Santa Clause" and "Jungle2Jungle." He's very familiar with Allen, so he knows just how to coax that special Tim Allen magic out of him: Make him act like a clueless imbecile, and make sure he gets whacked in the groin every few minutes. Instant comedy!

(Side note: The daughter, Natalie, is impossibly precocious, and the actress who plays her looks like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who played Allen's son on "Home Improvement." It's creepy.)

James Belushi earns a few laughs as the has-been movie star, and there are assorted chuckles elsewhere, too. But the overall impact is so slight and transparent. The comedy is broad, simple and amateurish. If you've watched even a few TV sitcoms, you've seen everything this movie has to offer -- but in much less time.

Grade: D+

Rated PG, a lot of mild profanity

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