August 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: Two unlikely friends left running on empty in 'Are You Here'

Owen Wilson, left, Amy Poehler and Zach Galifianakis, star in 'Are You Here.' (James Bridges / You Are Here Films)

‘Are You Here’ too closely resembles its lead character — aimless, offbeat and a bit too taken with its own empty charm.

That lead character is Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), a pot-smoking TV weatherman with nothing more on his mind than bedding beauties and listening to his own voice. Dallas is so supremely self-centered that it’s hard to believe he also takes care of his paranoid and mentally ill best friend since elementary school, Ben (Zach Galifianakis).

Normally, there’d be some explanation for the odd bond between these two, but writer-director Matthew Weiner (the creator of “Mad Men”) offers few hints. But bonded they are, so when Ben’s wealthy father passes away, it’s Dallas who drives him to the funeral.

There we meet Ben’s prickly sister, Terri (Amy Poehler), and the young, beautiful Angela (Laura Ramsey), who married Ben’s much older father. But Angela is no gold digger; she asked to be left out of the will. It turns out most of the old man’s wealth has been left to Ben.

With Ben being too mentally unstable to handle the money, both Dallas and Terri try to wrangle their way to riches. What follows is a tale of greed, unlikely couplings and redemption as Angela ends up caring for Ben in his father’s old farmhouse as Dallas hits on her.

There are some nice observations, but Dallas is supposed to transition from smarmy charm to actual likability along the way and the change never really happens in a way that’s believable. Wilson is almost too good at playing a moral vacuum and a few rushed scenes toward the end can’t turn things around. As a result “Are You Here” doesn’t feel all there.

“Are You Here” (R ) A charming-if-empty TV weatherman (Owen Wilson) helps his mentally unstable childhood buddy (Zach Galifianakis) handle an inheritance in this wobbly comedy from “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. (112 minutes) GRADE: C+

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