By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
Of the various members of Adam Sandler’s comedy circle, Kevin James is the hardest to pin down. While the other actors in the Happy Madison click cut their teeth at SNL or with lengthy stand-up careers, Kevin’s biggest foray into the mainstream began with his starring role on “King of Queens,” making him feel like an outsider of sorts. But the biggest difference is that, unlike the rage inducing films poured out starring Sandler, David Spade and Rob Schneider, James’ few forays into starring roles are mostly fine.
Average, regular and inoffensive, Kevin plays the role of the big, bubbling doofus dutifully. As a supporting player, he usually gets left alone in the scathing takedowns of Sandler’s films, and the “Paul Blart” series feels almost serviceable when the compared to the likes of “Grownups” or ‘Pixels.” And I would dare say “Here Comes the Boom” is actually pretty solid.
“Kevin Can Wait” sees James starring as a schlubby, blue-collar dad with a heart of gold. This time, he’s a former police suburban officer just getting ready for retirement (I have to imagine they cast him as retired officer because having a jaunty comedy starring an active officer might not be in the best taste right now). As the show starts, he is mapping out a series of grand hijinks with his friends. To be honest, this actually would have been a pretty fun premise for a series: an excuse to have a bunch of quippy archetypes on a new misadventure every week as they vent about reaching the twilight years.
But that angle is pushed to the side right away. As it turns out, James needs to rent out his garage to afford his various schemes. This coincides with his eldest daughter coming home to declare she is leaving college to support her newfound fiancee’s ambiguous tech start-up. Wanting her daughter to stay in college, Kevin offers to get a part-time job so she can stay in college and the two can move into the garage by the end of the episode. So much for that.
The series instead looks to become another classic sitcom. Bumbling dad working a blue-collar job, a conventionally attractive wife, three moppets who have a series of ‘quirks’ as opposed to character traits and a collection of wacky friends. Is that bad? No, not at all, it’s just not very exciting. Or funny. Or entertaining. Or memorable in the slightest. But why tweak the formula, right?
Honestly, going in expecting the worst, it’s perfectly serviceable. Except for one thing: the eldest daughter’s fiance. Not only is he loathable as a concept, an aspiring law student giving up her career so this dolt can spend his time working on an app he has no plans for, but his voice. We’ve seen plenty of terrible attempts to skewer the intolerable smugness and pretentiousness of “Silicon Valley,” but this might be the nadir. And it’s only episode one!
In the end, you want to root for “Kevin Can Wait.” James’ commitment to the few serious scenes he’s given at least show that he cares. But ultimately, the few laughs given aren’t at what’s on screen, but from the sheer blandness of it all, as the thirty minutes you spent watching feel like the overwhelming and infinite mass of space.