Awful Nice: Film Review
Todd Sklar's wacky comedy concerns estranged brothers who wreak havoc in Branson, Missouri
Todd Sklar’s sophomore feature, an expanded version of his 2012 short film ‘92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card, has lost something in translation besides a far more imaginative title. Demonstrating that some things are better served in short doses, Awful Nice, about two perpetually warring brothers, grates on the nerves from first moment to last.
James Pumphrey and co-screenwriter Alex Rennie play estranged brothers Jim and Dave who are reunited upon the death of their father. Jim, an associate professor with a wife and child, is the seemingly normal one, while Dave, who we first see sleeping naked in a teepee while participating in a Native American “vision quest,” is clearly the troublemaker of the two. After ruining the funeral by getting into one of their apparently never-ending fights, the pair set off to Branson, Missouri to sell off the summer vacation home that’s been left to them in their father’s will.
Upon arriving in the Midwest tourism mecca they discover that the home is in a shambles. Making the unwise decision to fix it up themselves, they get into endless violently slapstick skirmishes as if they were the Two Stooges desperately in need of a third. Among the many eccentric characters they encounter along the way are their father’s shady business associate (Christopher Meloni) and the menacing members of a Russian mob who have inexplicably set up business in Branson.
Rennie’s Dave dominates most of the would-be comic set pieces, including eating food from a dumpster and attempting to sneak into a hotel buffet, but the antics smack mostly of desperation. Director Sklar exploits the weird, tourist-pandering aspects of the location in a series of goofy split-screen montages that accomplish little more than padding the brief film’s running time.
Although it’s momentarily fun to see Meloni attempt to deviate from his intense Law and Order: SVU persona, the actor, assuming a weirdly indeterminate accent and wearing a garish wig that looks like an animal crawled on his head and died, doesn’t exactly demonstrate a flair for comedy. Not that the material he’s been handed gives him much of an opportunity.
Opens March 7 (Screen Media Films)
Production: Range Life Entertainment, Brother K
Cast: Alex Rennie, James Pumphrey, Christopher Meloni, Brett Gelman, Keeley Hazell, Charlie Sanders, Josh Fadem
Director: Todd Sklar
Screenwriters: Todd Sklar, Alex Rennie
Producers: Michael Forstein, Elizabeth MacKenzie, Adam Paulsen, Todd Sklar, Maury Steinman, Brock Wiliams
Executive producers: Steve Japan, Jason Krigsfeld, Joseph Krigsfeld
Director of photography: Adam Ginsberg
Editors: Kamau Bilal, Mark Harrison, Dean Peterson
Production designers: Michele Yu, Cindy Chao, Lanie Overton
Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
Composers: Mark Harrison, Jared Horne, Darin Seal, Joel Wrolstad
Not rated, 88 min.