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In Brief: Matt & Ben

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If you are under 30—correction, make that 25—live physically or mentally in the East Village, derive your intellectual sustenance from cult movies and pop culture, and think that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Good Will Hunting rates a toothless spoof stretched out to 70 minutes, then Matt & Ben is for you. Written and performed by two Dartmouth graduates, Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, this persiflage might have made it as a five-minute—correction, three-minute—skit on Saturday Night Live.

Who in his adult mind would want to satirize Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s pleasantly unimportant movie? I guess Mindy, who is Indian and short and plays big Ben Affleck, and Brenda, who is blonde and tall and plays smaller Matt Damon (get the joke?).

If at least they could make some validly sardonic points about those two hotshots—well, they get off one rather obvious J.Lo joke, and one about Gwyneth Paltrow, whom, along with J. D. Salinger, they also impersonate, but other than that, this could as well be, instead of about two dubious filmmakers, about two sophomoric playwrights, Mindy & Brenda.

The chief comic conceit is that while the two are hopelessly plugging away at a screen adaptation of Catcher in the Rye, there drops in a plain brown wrapper from Ben’s ceiling the screenplay of Good Will Hunting with their names on it. This is bizarre enough, but where is the satire, 70 desperate minutes of it, in that? The pals bicker, horse around, perform a Simon and Garfunkel song, have fantasies of Paltrow and Salinger dropping in on them (not from the ceiling), engage in fisticuffs, and do other similarly witty things with matching dialogue. The downtown crowd, proudly catching allusions to Latino women and such, laughs unbridledly.

The young women perform about as well as they write. Withers makes an effort to sound masculine (not that it helps), while Kaling is just smart-ass. David Warren’s direction does what it can, which isn’t much. If the script of Matt & Ben also dropped from the ceiling, as it well might have, why couldn’t it, like the Good Will Hunting script in the play, have its pages go blank before it ever got produced?


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