Luke Wilson as Wendell Baker
Owen Wilson as Neil King
Eva Mendes as Doreen
Seymour Cassel as Boyd
Jacob Vargas as Reyes
Harry Dean Stanton as Skip
Kris Kristofferson as Nasher
Eddie Griffin as McTeague
The Wendell Baker Story, a quirky story of one man’s strife to become a better person, debuts as the first writing and directorial credit for Luke Wilson working in tandem with older brother Andrew Wilson who was also taking his first spin in the director chair. The film focuses on title character Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) who is a Texas con man with a good heart and lofty dreams. Baker’s latest scheme lands him in prison for selling fake ids to illegal aliens that just crossed the US border from Mexico. This latest incarceration takes it toll in his longtime relationship with girlfriend Doreen (Eva Mendes), best friend and partner Reyes (Jacob Vargas) and even his dog, Junior. The film portrays an extremely upbeat, campy spin on the reality of prison life that writer/director/star Luke Wilson relates to as “Wendell’s version of a college experience”. While in prison, the ever optimistic Wendell chooses to turn his life around and begins to educate himself in the world of hotel management.
After his release the former conman attempts to regain his former life by getting a job at Shady Grove retirement hotel. Baker befriends senior citizen residents Boyd (Seymour Cassel), Skip (Harry Dean Stanton) and Nasher (Kris Kristofferson) who assist the reformed con to win back ex-girlfriend Doreen. The friendship between Baker and his new friends soon becomes a battlefront against the management of the retirement hotel headed by evil head nurse, Neil King (brother Owen Wilson) and henchman McTeague (Eddie Griffin). For the first time in Wendell’s life the critical decision of putting others above himself is thrust in his lap.
The film itself is very light hearted and fun but almost a tad cheesy at times. While the actors all gave superior performances, some of the story plot is lost in silly scenarios that place the main character in strange situations. The backdrop of Austin, Texas and surrounding area is beautiful and well displayed as an additional costar to this film. Some of the film is still somewhat rough and with a true indie film approach to filmmaking but overall well done in capturing the vision of the filmmaking brothers.
This film was originally produced by the now defunct Franchise Pictures but finished its production through Mobius Entertainment. At the time of this review, the film is searching for distribution of the film so it would be anyone’s guess as to when we will see this film in the theater.