Ever wonder what happened to the guy who got left at the altar in The Graduate ? We’ve seen this sort of character hundreds of times in romantic comedies, the guy we don’t really know or care about getting ditched by the girl for the film’s hero. This person is often disregarded subconsciously by the audience, who don’t realize that in celebration of one couple falling in love, someone is standing by with their heart broken. In his directorial debut, Michael Showalter provides the side of the story that isn’t told... the story of a Baxter.
Elliot Sherman (Showalter) is what his grandmother refers to as a "Baxter," the type of guy who never gets the girl, no matter how sure of a thing it may be. The film begins with Elliot being dumped on his wedding day as fiancée Caroline (Elizabeth Banks) runs off with her high school sweetheart, Bradley (Justin Theroux), in the middle of the ceremony. We then go back in time, and discover this sort of abrupt abandonment has happened to Elliot on numerous occasions with past girlfriends. His history of failed relationships lead up to his meeting and eventually proposing to Caroline, a beautiful and somewhat bipolar woman.
The dreaded Bradley enters into the picture only days before the wedding and, despite the fact he is dating someone else at the time, confesses his love to Caroline. We know their fate, so what’s to become of Elliot? Don’t fear, as destiny would have it, Bradley’s former girlfriend happens to be a picture perfect mate for him. At this point, what seemed like a clever parody of the tired romantic comedy genre reveals itself as just that in disguise.
Since the mere concept is carrying most of the weight, the film was tagged as "A romantic comedy for anyone who’s ever been dumped." Problem is, the politically correct messages are ultimately discouraging for the Baxters in the audience. Even though our protagonist is a perfect representative of the breed, the film argues that beautiful women should only end up with handsome men, and that if you’re a nerd, then aim for the other nerds.
Showalter’s filmmaking techniques exceed his acting, which mostly consists of "Oh my god I’m about to be punched in the face" expressions. Theroux (Mulholland Dr.) is the one who really steals the show, providing most of the humor as well as the best performance.
As for the overall picture, it succeeds in originality, but fails in execution. The wacky humor with a cliché climax may be what some people are looking for, but don’t expect to laugh too hard.