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At 30-years-old, Dr. Peter Newmans (Johnny Simmons) works as a successful sex addiction therapist, seemingly oblivious to the vibrant sexual stories and come-ons of his cliental. His no-nonsense approach, which mostly steers client to his latest book, gives him an almost eunuch-like persona. Well there’s a reason for that, one he doesn’t he realize until an accident during a friendly game of pick-up basketball has doctors discovering a benign tumor on his pituitary gland. It has suppressed the puberty stage of his development and while friends and family recognize his innocent-like quality (both with personality and physically). With its removal, Peter becomes, as the title suggests, a late bloomer.
From there, in the span of three weeks, Peter erupts, figuratively and and literally, as his body swoops in and plays catch-up for the years lost, layering him in explosive amounts of pimples, drastic voice changes, copious masturbation and more as he explores adulthood. As a popular therapist on the verge of national acclaim as his latest book gets him invited to interviews on ‘MPR’ and ‘NED Talks’ the timing couldn’t be, well troubling.
Directed by Kevin Pollak, The Late Bloomer is a well-cast but obvious comedy that is very loosely based on the real-life E! TV personality Ken Baker, though decidedly not as it casts its lead as a sex therapist. That itself is perhaps that oddest part, seeing as the grown man has yet to have even a single intimate moment, even balking at a kiss. How is he qualified to be a sex therapist? Naturally, that is addressed by some of the characters, but the premise feels forced simply to be ironic.
Pollack isn’t interested in nuance or subtlety, painting in broad strokes with characters and dialogue, keeping this mostly superficial. A big bag of clichés, the film plows forward with big blocky sequences that follow a pretty straight-forward path with each scene mostly staged like a TV sitcom formula, which means that yes, some of it is genuinely funny but most is standard. That is surely the intent of course, a story built solely on the premise and the jokes that can be reaped from it, many of which pop up and disappear with no consequences other than the hope to get a laugh.
That said, as mentioned, the cast is good. Johnny Simmons is great fun to watch, a young actor who has proven himself a real talent. His work in this year’s The Phenom, was a real standout and here, despite the script, he carries the story as best he can, convincing as a young man going through a decidedly confusing time. His friends Rich (Kumail Nanjiani) and Luke (Beck Bennett) are funny but again, sitcom friends and so speak and act like no two people in real life ever do. Johnny’s father, played by J.K. Simmons, is also well cast and very funny. Most effective though is Brittany Snow as Michelle, his attractive and friendly neighbor who trusts Peter. She’s a beguiling and charming character that helps to ground the lunacy.
The Late Bloomer is a predictable story that tries hard to be edgier than it is and is too removed from itself to be relevant. It could and should have been stronger, and though it attempts to cash in on better films, mostly The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, it can’t find the tone and personality of that movie.
Director: Kevin Pollak
Writers: Ken Baker (based on the book "Man Made: A Memoir of My Body" by), Joe Nussbaum (screenplay)
Stars: Johnny Simmons, Blake Cooper, J.K. Simmons, Kumail Nanjiani, Beck Bennett