THE MIMIC (2020)

March 11, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. It has been said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Writer-director Thomas F Mazziotti has not only based this story on his own real life experience, but with it proves that imitation can also be the sign of a psychopath. In fact, as the film begins, we are informed that 1 in 25 people are psychopaths, and also playing a role here is “The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us”, a 2005 book written by Martha Stout.

This is an unusual film with an offbeat rhythm. It reminds me a bit of CREEP, the 2014 movie starring Mark Duplass, in that the characters all seem like someone we could know, yet there’s something a bit off. Thomas Sadoski (“The Newsroom”) is Tony, a lead character, a widower, and our narrator. Tony has not adjusted to life without his wife, and part of the reason could be how his friends and neighbors are always bringing it up. Once the “Kid” shows up, Tony is taken on a ride that has him questioning not just other people, but reality.

“Kid” is actually Peter (Jake Robinson), a 31 year old, red pants wearing newcomer to town. He seems to fit right in with the elderly local newspaper ladies as they bicker about semi-colons, but his real attraction is to Tony – proclaiming “we’re on the same wavelength” after a few ‘coincidental’ meet-ups. It’s tempting to label this as a battle of nitwits, but neither of the men lack intelligence. They are both just awkward, and that includes Tony, our trusted narrator.

The film is basically a puzzle with numerous separate pieces loosely packaged as a series of vignettes that may or may not tie together. The segments certainly provide a showcase for a plethora of recognizable actors. The list includes: Austin Pendleton, Gina Gershon, Jessica Walter, Didi Conn, Marilu Henner, Tammy Blanchard, Matthew Maher, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Josh Pais, and Steve Routman. One segment I found particularly entertaining featured Doug Plaut and the legendary M Emmet Walsh as a writer and director discussing a project.

For the most part, it just seems the film, the writers, and the characters are all trying so desperately to be witty, clever, or funny, that whether it works as a cohesive project gets kind of pushed aside. The background circus music fits well and complements the theatrical pacing and cadence. Mazziotti’s film is certainly not cinema-as-usual, and it will likely find a cult following … perhaps among those bonding “on a personal pronoun basis.”

 

 


BLOCKERS (2018)

April 5, 2018

 Greetings again from the darkness. Teen sex comedies exploring new boundaries are a Hollywood tradition. ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), PORKY’S (1981), AMERICAN PIE (1999), and SUPERBAD (2007) all pushed the limits of decency for their era, and provided varying levels of laughter while doing so. In her directorial debut, Tina Fey protégé Kay Cannon (“30 Rock”, PITCH PERFECT franchise), offers up what has been called the first “Feminist teen comedy”, and the risqué humor is far more extreme than that of its predecessors noted above.

We have become quite accustomed to the all-too-common male-centric perspective in these types of movies, so kudos to director Cannon for taking a look from the other side: a Female-centric teen sex comedy. Co-writers Brian and Jim Kehoe unfortunately try to cram too much into what should mostly be a laugh-a-thon. We get the #SexPact2018 from 3 high school senior best friends who agree to lose their virginity on prom night. We get the far-too-involved parents trying to prevent that from happening. We get those same parents dealing with the pending empty nest syndrome, while those three friends are immersed in drugs, alcohol and sex talk. If that’s not quite enough, there is also a sexual identity awakening and a hotel party more extreme than you would find in Las Vegas.

Leslie Mann plays Lisa, the helicopter single mom to Julie (Kathryn Newton). WWE star John Cena is Mitchell, the overprotective dad and life coach to Kayla (an outstanding Geraldine Viswanathan); and comedian Ike Barinholtz (“The Mindy Project”) is Hunter, the estranged/absentee/banished dad to Sam (Gideon Adlon). Julie envisions the perfect romantic encounter, while Kayla just wants to be done with it, and Sam is still trying to figure out why she isn’t so attracted to boys.

Riffing off of the “one wild and crazy night” theme, prom night is chosen by the three amigas, and what follows is outrageous and periodically hilarious. Most of the humor comes courtesy of the parents on the ill-fated ‘blocking’ mission. The story bounces from heartfelt emotions of parents to ‘butt-chugging’ at a party. There is also a car explosion, felony breaking and entering, and projectile vomiting. Perhaps there is an overuse of hulking John Cena crying, but that’s less cringe-inducing than the role-playing of Gary Cole and Gina Gershon (parents of one of the girl’s dates).

Setting the story in Chicago allows the filmmakers to take on the conservative Midwestern attitudes toward sex, while also providing a teenager with the “I’m getting as far away as possible” (UCLA) comeback. It makes sense that SUPERBAD co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are Producers, as this film often feels like the female cousin to that 2007 film. Hannibal Buress has a small memorable role, as does Jimmy Bellinger, as fedora wearing Chad. The real standouts here are relative newcomer Geraldine Viswanathan, and John Cena, who previously has excelled with less screen time (DADDYS HOME 2, TRAINWRECK). Many will be offended on numerous occasions, and certainly most parents will be uncomfortable with the drug use and sexcapades of teenagers. However, the theater was often filled with boisterous laughter, proving that this is what constitutes contemporary cinematic comedy. Only you can decide if you are OK with that.

watch the trailer: