Television comedy is in somewhat of a renaissance these days with premium cable and streaming giants funding some of the most radical, niche series ever seen. Too bad directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce didn’t quite get the memo as their film “Slow Learners” feels like a natural fit for that medium. The movie feels quite a bit like a comedy pilot extended to feature length.
The two main characters, Adam Pally’s Jeff and Sarah Burns’ Anne, are the perfect odd couple for a small-screen romantic comedy story. Both have their issues connecting romantically with people of the opposite sex – Jeff more for his doughy looks; Anne, her zany personality. Over summer vacation, the two high-school teachers undergo transformations to make themselves more appealing partners, with each having their successes and setbacks. Of course, anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy knows where they are really headed.
The ride to the inevitable destination has its fun moments, including some fun bit parts from underrated television actors like Reid Scott (Dan Egan from “Veep”), Kate Flannery (Meredith from “The Office”) and Cecily Strong (“Saturday Night Live”). But I could not help but wonder if these characters might make for more compelling television figures. Pally and Burns have the comedic versatility to operate on an episodic scale. Stretching them to meet a traditional narrative arc, like the one seen in “Slow Learners,” detracts from their gifts as much as it showcases them. B- /