David Koechner's got the best role of his career in the new film “Cheap Thrills,” and this is one of those cases where you can tell that an actor is completely aware of just how great a part they've been given.
Or earned, as the case may be. Koechner's put in as much time in the trenches as anyone, and he's been a consistently interesting and unusual onscreen presence. I've been watching Dave perform live in LA and in films and on television for 20 years now, and he consistently manages to surprise me with choices he makes or with the way he'll approach a joke or a character beat. It shocks me that “Cheap Thrills” is the first film to make full use of the menace that Koechner is capable of projecting, but E.L. Katz should be high-fived repeatedly and vigorously for thinking outside the box and making such a great choice.
For most audiences, Koechner's biggest moment so far would have been in the “Anchorman” movies, and I love the way the sequel suddenly made the subtextual attraction that Champ Kind felt for Ron Burgundy into text, front and center. I also love how the sequel embraced the weird when it came to Champ's character. His fried bat restaurant is like a nightmare I had once and can only halfway remember, and it seems to be exactly where that character belongs.
I've gotten a chance to get to know Koechner away from movies as well, and he's a very smart, very focused family man who has constantly worked to create new opportunities for himself as an actor and a comic. He's not one of those guys who is waiting around for someone else to figure out what he does well. He's written scripts for himself, he's worked incredibly hard on things like “The Naked Trucker And T-Bone” show, and he constantly seems busy. And even so, he's managed to find time to have somewhere around 500 children so far with his so-cool-it's-silly wife Leigh.
Here's hoping “Cheap Thrills” helps to change the perception among filmmakers about who Koechner is as an actor. He's got way more ammo than he's been allowed to use so far, and this feels like a turning point for him, as long as people actually see the film. It's in theaters and on VOD now, and it's safe to say I'm a big fan. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.