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Matt Damon packs it on (literally, to the tune of 30 lbs) to illustrate he can play quirky in “The Informant,” a breezy Steven Soderbergh comedy based on true events. His weaselly turn is the type of showcasing that wins awards, but at least here they have been deserved.

Mark Whitacre (Damon), a Whistle Blower for the FBI, becomes more and more unreliable, as his lies pile upon other lies. Eventually, even Mark doesn’t remember the truth anymore.

With its humorous performances, bright colors and punchy music, Soderbergh projects a farcical mood, reminiscent of the 60’s spy comedies like “Casino Royale” and the Dean Martin/Matt Helm series.  The balloon-shape-fonted chyrons that alert the audience of a particular scene’s date and location are as full of air as the film’s subject.

I was going to mention that the composer of “The Informant” lifted motifs from Marvin Hamlisch’s buffoonish score for Woody Allen’s “Bananas,” only to just discover this thief to be Hamlisch himself.  Not only does he borrow from his past comedy, but pays homage to Burt Bacharach’s zippy beats from the 60’s James Bond parody “Casino Royale.”

Writer Scott Z Burns gets into his anti-heroes head and finds a consternation of falsehoods and irrelevant information. The character’s inner voice rambles, never focusing on the issues at hand. Based on the asides in Whitacre’s head, it’s not surprising the man has no idea which way is up.

Damon projects this deluded man in his mannerisms and talk.  Besides the extra weight, Damon wears a crooked mustache, oversized glasses that are always askew, and a bad rug.  Only a company as incompetent as ADM would make this clown a Vice President. Damon appears to be mocking his most piercing role, “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Both men are weighed down by their own insecurities, project a hunger to be someone else, and have long forgotten their actual identities. 

The rest of the ensemble orbits around him, constantly falling for his inanities and then staring mouth agape, stunned that they could be so easily and continuously duped.  As the only one actually blinded by love, Melanie Lynskey (“Heavenly Creatures”) perfectly portrays the woman at his side, standing by her man regardless of the malarkey he spins around her.  As the out-of-his-league FBI agent, Scott Bakula slyly underplays his character’s incompetence.  Supposedly trained to spot criminals, his character allows one into his confidence. That Whitacre is so inept only makes Bakula’s character even more pathetic.

Matt Damon has been ignored by the Film Academy 10-years-ago for portraying the alluring psychopath, Tom Ripley.  Here’s hoping he gets a second chance for this bumbling sociopath.  Grade: A-

 
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