If I Had Known I Was a Genius



PARK CITY -- Markus Redmond's life story is mined for dysfunctional laughs in "If I Had Known I Was a Genius," a funny enough but seriously uneven comedy serving as the feature directorial debut of TV writer Dominique Wirtschafter.

While providing an effective showcase for the affable black actor, the comedy, a Sundance Spectrum entry, gets off to a promising start before suffering protracted energy slumps throughout.

Given a colorful supporting cast of familiar faces belonging to the likes of Whoopi Goldberg (who's an understated blast as Redmond's hardhearted mother), Sharon Stone, Tara Reid, Della Reese, Julie Hagerty and Keith David, a much tighter edit would be a no-brainer in making the picture a more marketable proposition.

Redmond plays himself in various stages of his fictionalized upbringing at the hands of his anti-nurturing mom and his bullying big sister (Debra Wilson).

Things seem to get worse when it's discovered he's a highly gifted student (his mother never tells him his IQ results lest he get a swelled head) and only improve in the self-worth department when he enrolls in his high school drama class led by a dizzyingly over-the-top diva (Stone).

There are many amusing moments in Redmond's script, but it's always a risky proposition whenever you have a lead character who goes through the entire film addressing the camera. It's a conceit that might work in 23-minute segments on episodic television, but the novelty can wear off a lot more quickly in a feature-length format, and "Genius" is no exception.

The comedy isn't so smart whenever he leaves that ripe family environment behind for an extended period, like the flat, momentum-draining sequences set in the warehouse store where he works while awaiting his big break.

As long as they remain on home turf, Redmond and Wirtschafter show a promising flair for funny business.