Reviewed by David Williams (January 15, 2003)
Adam Garcia (COYOTE UGLY) and Rosario Dawson (MEN IN BLACK II) star in this hilarious dot-comedy of errors about five social misfits who set out to make history and wind up making millions.
When burnt-out marketing exec Andy Caspar (Garcia) decides to “create something”, he recruits an oddball trio of dysfunctional geniuses to design the world’s first $99 computer. The project proves hopeless until Andy’s sexy neighbor (Dawson) steps in to rekindle his creativity and add a few sparks of her own.
Rich with laughs and side-splitting sight gags, THE FIRST $20 MILLION proves anything is possible if you believe in yourself and your friends … no matter how strange they are!
Boy, after reading the back of the DVD case that accompanies the film, you’d be a fool not to watch The First $20 Million. With all of its “laughs” and “side-splitting sight gags”, The First $20 Million sounds like a riotous good time. What you don’t know is that this is one of the most misleading covers that has ever graced a DVD. This film has got to be one of the worst-acted, least funny, and most laborious films that I have viewed in months and thankfully for you, I wasted my time watching it so you wouldn’t have to. (You’re welcome.)
The movie takes place in the mid to late-90’s – when the dot com boom was in full swing – and we are introduced to young marketing exec, Andy Casper (Adam Garcia). Even with his larger-than-life salary, super-fine Porsche, and super-fine girlfriend, life just isn’t fulfilling as it should be to him. He decides that he wants to make something meaningful with his life and therefore, Casper turns in his resignation to his boss, gets him to pull a few strings, and ends up working for the La Honda Research Institute in Silicon Valley – a low-paying research gig at a technology “think tank”. Andy then proceeds to load up his Porsche and ends up finding cheap, communal living quarters near his new job. It’s there that he meets Stanford art student, Alisa (Rosario Dawson) – a new source of inspiration for Andy.
At his new job at Le Honda, Andy meets Francis Benoit (Enrico Colantoni) – the leader of the technical “super team” Andy is assigned to work for and he’s somewhat perturbed that Andy has been added to his team without his knowledge. Benoit learns that Andy was behind the ad campaign for his last invention – some sort of chicken suit – and he is still somewhat disappointed with the results. In return, Benoit makes it his mission to make Andy’s life a living hell on earth. Francis immediately kicks Andy off of his team and assigns him his own team – one responsible for creating a $99 laptop computer. This is a “killer app” if there ever was one … one that is sure to kill the career of any young research guru at La Honda.
Andy accepts the challenge with unusual gusto and sets out to recruit the best programmers left that aren’t already working on a major project. We are introduced in short order to Salman (Anjul Nigam), a super-hacker whose laptop is strapped to his chest and someone who utilizes one of the Secret Service’s T1 lines for his own devices; Tiny (Ethan Suplee), a shy and ultra-geeky uber-programmer with little to no social skills; and Darrell (Jake Busey), the hardware god of the group who also happens to be a germ-o-phobe and refers to himself in the first-person. Andy takes these societal misfits and manages to do the impossible – get closer than anyone else has in creating the $99 dollar computer using a mish-mash and hodge-podge of components.
However, as the “$99 Laptop Computer” project comes to a close, the funding for the project is mysteriously yanked out from under them and Andy and company must find a way to continue the project without third-party funding. Will the project see completion without financing? You tell me. (Uggggh.)
The “little guy versus the evil corporate world” story is completely uninspiring and the talent vacuum that is the cast simply makes you want to turn off your DVD player. Jon Favreau’s unfunny screenplay (yes, that Jon Favreau) of Po Bronson’s novel and Mick Jackson’s lackluster direction don’t help matters much either. The “inside” computer nerd jokes fall completely flat and the film is a few years late in cashing in on the Silicon Valley hey day. Do I need to spell it out further? The First $20 Million quite simply leaves a rancid smell in your DVD player when it’s ejected.
The film is equal parts Revenge of the Nerds and Office Space and pulls neither off well. The title of the film is rather ironic, as I would imagine that this film making $20 million dollars would be not only hard, but practically impossible. It’s hard to make that kind of cash when you’re relegated to a video store rental bin.