One adjective you don’t hear much anymore is “preposterous,” defined as “contrary to nature, reason or common sense.” Yet the word applies perfectly to Inheritance, a blithering botch job of a thriller that begs the question: “Come on, are you fucking kidding me?”
The plot, such as it is, involves the last will and testament of Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton, a.k.a. Seinfeld‘s immortal Puddy), the patriarch of a New York financial dynasty who leaves the bulk of his fortune to his devoted widow Catherine (Connie Nielsen) and their politician son William (Chace Crawford). Getting the shaft is his lawyer daughter Lauren, played by Lily Collins. This talented daughter of Phil Collins starred in Mirror, Mirror as Snow White opposite Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, who couldn’t have put a worse curse on Collins than this misbegotten muddle. Lauren, brushed off with a measly million, does inherit the key to an underground bunker, however, that’s tucked away on the Monroe summer estate. Dad left strict instructions on a video for her eyes only. The catch? She must deal with the evil she finds there.
Intrigued? The Tribeca Film Festival must have seen potential since it booked Inheritance to premiere there last month. It was the COVID-19 pandemic that sent the film direct to video, where we can only watch now and wonder why this assault of suspense-and-logic-free chaos wasn’t also buried in a bunker with the key thrown away.
What goes wrong? Let’s count the ways. You can start with the intelligence-deprived screenplay by Matthew Kennedy, which posits that Lauren will descend into the dark underground and find — wait for it — a scraggly man chained to the wall. He is Morgan Warner, who tells Lauren that her father has locked him in this prison “longer than you’ve been alive.” That’s 30 years. Apparently no one on the Monroe estate, including the landscaping unit, has ever bothered to investigate what’s under that fully visible trapdoor on the grounds.
We do learn that Lauren’s daddy dearest has been providing food and water for Morgan and chat sessions so elaborate that Morgan knows every detail about Lauren’s career as an assistant district attorney and her life as a wife and mother. Does the ADA set him free? Nope. First she needs to investigate his claims since the story could ruin the family’s reputation, end her job as a prosecutor and squash her brother’s chance at winning a second term in Congress. No spoilers since even movies without a single redeeming feature have the right to protected secrets, though these reveals are beyond lame.
No point withholding out of respect the name of the actor playing Morgan. He’s Simon Pegg, the brilliant star of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End; he’s also pulled off the ultimate nerd hat trick of having roles in Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek. Pegg’s sharp comic instincts raise hopes that he’ll either lift the character of Morgan out of the dungeon of cliché or at least mock the entire enterprise he’s buried in. No such luck. Pegg, wearing what appears to be Dana Carvey’s wig from Wayne’s World, is fun for a minute reciting a detailed recipe for key lime pie that he longs to wash down with vintage Scotch. But Pegg gets sucked down with everyone else into the maw of the film’s gross incompetence.
If we’re assigning blame, director Vaughn Stein should take the lion’s share. The resounding flop of his 2018 debut feature Terminal, which ambushed Pegg, Margot Robbie, Mike Myers and the audience into 90 minutes of surreal, pretentious gibberish, should have been enough to suspend his directing license in perpetuity. But nooo. His misbegotten and, yes, preposterous new movie hits a new low that will test the patience and the sanity of anyone who sees it. If this is an inheritance, leave us out of the will, please.