Jay Moore (Micah Stock) is a small-town idiot running a dumb scam on his employers and customers at a sub sandwich shop. Instead of ordering the corporate-mandated supplies from the company that owns the chain, he gets expired products from a local grocery store for cheap. A higher markup means more profit, but the deal puts him in cahoots with the wrong side of the law. When he hits the skids with his wife Maggie, and she even threatens to destroy his scheme, he hires a deaf tough guy named Kosco (Happy Anderson) to scare her straight. Well, Kosco takes it too far and sets Maggie’s car on fire with her in it. As the authorities close in on Jay, he comes up with the plan to hire Kosco again to take out the other Maggie Moore (Mary Holland) in town to throw people off his scent.
Believe it or not, with the arguable exception of Jay, none of these people lead “Maggie Moore(s).” Slattery and writer Paul Bernbaum turn that role over to Chief Jordan Sanders (Jon Hamm), the cop who ends up with both cases. Working with a deputy played well by Nick Mohammed of “Ted Lasso,” Sanders connects the dots and even meets a potential girlfriend in Jay’s neighbor Rita (Tina Fey). She overheard the last Moore fight and has a very movie-convenient way of falling into things.
Overall, Slattery can’t find the right tone for this odd tale of dual victims with the same name. The true story of Mary Morris is so hard to believe that I’m not surprised that it inspired a screenwriter like Bernbaum, but one senses this final story has gone through dozens of iterations, both as a screenplay and then in production. We follow Jay through his dumb plans and Jordan as he unravels them, but none of it is enough, either as a comedy or a mystery.
Having said that, I realized while watching “Maggie Moore(s)” how much I would love to see Hamm & Mohammed solve crimes in a mystery-of-the-week show on TV. They have an easy rapport that makes the actual investigation the film’s most intriguing part—to be fair, Hamm and Fey have strong chemistry too, but the movie doesn’t have enough time to develop that into anything compelling. That’s really true of the whole production. “Maggie Moore(s)” keeps threatening to go to interesting places and then gets stuck repeating itself.
Reviewed from the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. “Maggie Moore(s)” opens on June 16th.