Premature: SXSW Review

Premature Still - H 2014
Courtesy of FilmNation Entertainment

Premature Still - H 2014

Enjoyable but lightweight teen comedy is less novel than expected

Dan Beers riffs on Harold Ramis in a sex-centric take on "Groundhog Day."

AUSTIN — The recent loss of Harold Ramis does no favors to Dan Beers's Premature, a modest but likeable spin on Groundhog Day that would play better for audiences who hadn't spent the last couple of weeks reflecting on what an unimprovable film that was, and how rewatchable it is even after two decades. When compared to Bill Murray's eternally-repeating day of self-improvement, the struggle of a lackluster high school kid to figure out his love life by living the same day over and over is small potatoes. The novelty here — that this adolescent's life hits the Reset button whenever he ejaculates — is good for a few laughs, and may be weird enough to attract a small audience in theaters. But the execution isn't outrageous or funny enough to make a big splash in the teen-comedy marketplace.

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John Karna plays Rob, whose plans for this school day are to make a good impression with a college interviewer, survive the usual bullying in the hallway, and spend a quiet evening with good friend Gabrielle (Katie Findlay) watching the national spelling bee finals. But life intervenes in ways both cruel and miraculous: Though things go badly on many fronts, he also winds up having an unexpected tutoring session with Angela (Carlson Young), the school's resident object of lust, who invites him to her place and has more than studying on her mind. Just as that scenario reaches its climax, though, Rob wakes up as if from a wet dream, starting the same day over again.

The script, by Beers and Mathew Harawitz, offers a little less invention in this endless-repeat scenario than it might have. But Karna's initially stonefaced performance grows more enjoyable as Rob embraces the fact that he can do what he want at school, safe in the knowledge that there will be no consequences as soon as he does what teenage boys are best at — so long as he can find a private place for a few moments of self-abuse, he'll escape to a fresh day. He briefly becomes "the Douchey Lama," philosophically embracing a life without repercussions.

An early focus on getting things right in bed with Angela plays out halfheartedly, and Rob's eventual attempt to figure out why he's stuck in a loop in hopes of escaping it proceeds without real clues. Though viewers will draw their own conclusions about what Rob's priorities should be, the film doesn't really lead them gently in that direction. Findlay makes an appealing should-be romantic interest; Alan Tudyk, as a surprisingly emotional interviewer, goes broader than usual but gets many of the film's biggest laughs. Tech departments are fine if similarly unsubtle; though the direction has some clumsy moments, they evoke '80s low-budget comedies in ways that may be intentional.

Production Company: FilmNation

Cast: John Karna, Craig Roberts, Katie Findlay, Alan Tudyk, Adam Riegler, Carlson Young, Elon Gold

Director: Dan Beers

Screenwriters: Dan Beers, Mathew Harawitz

Producers: Aaron Ryder, Karen Lunder

Executive producer: Glen Basner

Director of photography: Jimmy Lindsey

Production designer: John Paino

Music: Nick Urata

Editor: Robert Nassau

Sales: FilmNation

No rating, 93 minutes