For once our opinions are relevant and timely instead of only thoughtful and brilliant! Three of the Grouches got to take in a preview screening of Steven Soderbergh’s newest film, The Informant!. Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, a manager at agri-conglomerate ADM in the early 90s. He tips the FBI off to his firm’s schemes to fix prices for corn derivatives. But rather than a corporate or crime thriller – this is no Michael Clayton or The FirmThe Informant! is a zany journey through Whitacre’s twisted motivations and off-kilter personality.

The film opens this Friday. Here are our quick thoughts:


Speaking as someone who knew next to nothing about the ins and outs of the Mark Whitacre story, I loved watching the plot unfold and seeing the case for/against ADM unfold. Damon was hilarious and transformative, and Marvin Hamlisch’s score reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Sting. Even before the big reveals towards the end, I enjoyed playing the “crazy like a fox?” or “just plain crazy?” game with Damon. Highly recommended.


Frustratingly obvious and consistently flat, The Informant! knows where the jokes should be, but fails to deliver on any of the punchlines. Perhaps because I knew the story ahead of time, the barely-there plot isn’t as twisty as it thinks it is. But maybe most disappointing is the criminally underused supporting cast. What’s the point in having people like Scott Bakula, Tony Hale, Tom Wilson, and the Smothers Brothers in a comedy if they are all going to play straight?


The highest praise I can give The Informant! is that it is spot-on tonally. Rather than playing the plot straight, Soderbergh turns the story into a madcap adventure into one businessman’s twisted mind. The plot is interesting enough but the true strength comes in all the clever little touches and humorous absurdities. I wouldn’t call it laugh-out-loud funny for the most part but it’s always amusing and intensely fun. Damon should get some Best Actor consideration. In short: see this because not only is it terrific but I fear it will need every dollar it can scrounge up. The Oscar season is truly off and running.