Christopher Walken is hilarious as Nat, an eccentric con-artist and deadbeat dad dying to reconnect with his troubled son, Flynn (Alessandro Nivola, The Eye, Laurel Canyon). Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Nat shanghais his reluctant son into driving him cross-country for experimental medical remedy. Low on cash, they pull off increasingly more ridiculous and embarrassing schemes along the way to achieve their destination spending only $5 a day. Boasting a star-packed cast that includes Sharon Stone, Amanda Peet and Dean Cain, $5 A DAY is an irresistibly fresh and charming comedy about letting go of the past and choosing your own road.
The terrific cast of $5 a Day lifts it above your average road-shuttle/buddy-movie/long-lost-dad-resurfaces film. And what a cast: Christopher Walken is stellar as Nat, a con artist who shows up in his grown son’s life after years on the lam–for mysterious reasons. The hunky Alessandro Nivola plays his son, Ritchie, who is suspicious (possibly rightly) of his long-lost dad’s sudden reappearance and his plan for a crazed road shuttle. Other standouts include Sharon Stone, a vixen from Nat’s past, in addition to Peter Coyote (who lends $5 a Day some much-needed gravitas), Amanda Peet, and Dean Cain. The plot is thin, but the ride is a blast–watch how Nat finagles free or next-to-free food, accommodations, and laundry facilities on the mysterious shuttle he is taking Ritchie on. (In truth, the product placement in the film is so prominent that one suspects $5 a Day could also have been the film’s production budget.) As $5 a Day winds along its crazy itinerary, the laughs are plentiful, but there may be pathos lurking in the background, and soon Ritchie learns the true reason Nat has come to find him. The talents of the actors–especially Walken and Stone–balancing slapstick laughs with grownup heartbreak are well worth any price. —A.T. Hurley