For just over 90 minutes, writer/director/actor Jonathan Grant (along with co-director Josh McKamie and 10 others—mostly in the cast—who provided “additional material”) feasts at the buffet table of yuks, but overloads the plates with so much variety that this encouraging first feature can’t find the illusive land of comedic consistency and balance.
Grant, playing filmmaker Michael Justice—vowing to “make my own reality”—is the bare-breasted guide from conception of the premise (the fabled monster returns to be tracked down) to the first screening of the film-within-the-film, The Return of Bigfoot.
Much of the creature’s back-story is given by Tommy who (although admittedly drunk at the time) has sighted all manner of unworldly beasts and spacecraft—even managing to build an alcohol-muddled replica. Indeed, sight gags abound—perhaps only missing the opportunity to clamp the body microphone on Justice’s camera-friendly nipple rather than his array of gaudy Hawaiian shirts.
Securing financing—the bane of all independent producers—scores an early hit as Justice is forced to promise product placement in return for greenbacks. Hard up for cash suddenly becomes hard on for publicity as the product, BOVAGINA—semen fortifier for hit-and-miss stud bulls—must somehow find its way into the script. The solution is nothing to squirt at but might have morphed into a zinger if the pumping “action” of the “water” rifle had been more, er, convincing.
The auditions sequence has some fun moments (Ty, wearing an alphabet T-shirt admits to being a slow reader; the headshot of beauty turns out to be decades old: never happens in showbiz!), but Rory’s (Lucas Ross) intentionally lame magic tricks and a hobby that’s forced him to abandon home and move in with grandma (no payoff to the promising set-up) and the too predictable drama queen (Brittany Joyner) rob the well-crafted pace of the opening scenes.
“The only colour that matters is pink,” offers Justice as he struggles through a continuing series of racial “jokes.” Monica Jones as Monica Jones plays the oh-so-used-to-it token black with eyes that speak volumes and a savvy that says “cast her in something else, please.”
The 5-day shoot contains, thankfully, the film’s only bathroom joke (the hydrant is a hoot) and convincingly demonstrates that Justice has no clothes when assuming the fictional role of gifted director who’s obsessed with the “message.” Hilarious is his own feet serving as the dolly track; tiresome is the straw-hat kiss lesson; fun (and nicely sung) is the “She’s the One” campfire song accompanied by a no-string, twelve-string guitar.
The black-and-white film itself is in many ways the best part of the show. (OK, the Fine-Stine, Fine-Steen joke gets a couple too many visits, but the mock horror is engaging with every howl and the “chatter, chatter” during the party can’t fail to spark a grin.)
A generous edit to the epilogue could help this film leave its audience in a more positive frame of mind: kill the pointless last gasp “where are they now” (we don’t care in such a short time span) and get right to the spot-on ending that makes a terrific point about quality if only it could take centre stage. After all, isn’t this all about the message?” JWR