Closing Escrow



Magnolia Pictures

NEW YORK -- Perhaps Christopher Guest and his collaborators have made the mockumentary genre look too easy. That it's not is very much demonstrated in "Closing Escrow," a misfired effort from Armen Kaprelian and Kent Llewellyn spoofing the real estate industry.

The filmmakers certainly know their subject well, having served as producers on the HGTV reality show "House Hunters." But for all their knowledge of the absurdities of buying and selling real estate in today's often overheated market, they have produced a comedy that lacks insight as well as laughs.

The sketchy plot follows the fortunes of three couples as they navigate through the process of buying a house. They include Tom and his rather unstable wife Dawn (Andrew Friedman, Patty Wortham), working with an unsavory real estate agent (Ryan Smith) who vandalizes properties in order to lower their value; Tamika and Bobby (April Barnett, Cedric Yarbrough), an upscale black couple who set off their frazzled agent's (Wendi McLendon-Covey) not so underlying racism; and Allen and Mary (Rob Brownstein, Colleen Crabtree), a suburban couple trying to keep up with the Joneses.

The obviously improvised proceedings -- at least let's hope they're improvised -- fail to produce the desired laughs, with frequent pauses after punch lines that will only result in lengthy silences. While there are some comedic moments that ring true, too often the humor is dependent on quirky character traits rather than exploiting the rich satirical potential of the subject matter.

The performers frequently rise above the material, with "Reno 911!" veterans Yarbrough and McLendon-Covey particularly amusing in their characterizations. Unfortunately, their talents are wasted in this lame property.