Searching for Sonny: Film Review

Searching for Sonny Minka Kelly - H 2012

Searching for Sonny Minka Kelly - H 2012

Quirky, comic film noir proves yet again that high school reunions never turn out well.

Andrew Disney's quirky comedy follows a 28-year-old slacker and pizza deliveryman searching for his missing former high school classmate.

High school reunions have long been a fertile source for screen comedy, but the concept yields diminishing returns in Searching for Sonny. This combination of murder mystery and quirky comedy features some mildly amusing moments and enough stylistic imagination to make debuting writer/director Andrew Disney someone to watch. But its overly cutesy tone and convoluted noir-style plot ultimately proves wearisome. Receiving a limited theatrical release, it should find a small audience on VOD and DVD thanks to the presence of such small-screen stars as Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights, Charlie’s Angels) and Masi Oki (Heroes).

Main character Elliot (Jason Dohring) is a 28-year-old slacker and pizza deliveryman who, in an example of the film’s humor, confesses his jealousy of Jesus Christ for achieving so much before he turned thirty.

Receiving an invitation to his 10th high school reunion that containis a cryptic message from his old friend Sonny (Oki), Elliot returns to his Texan hometown where he reunites with his pothead/barista twin brother Calvin (Nick Kocher) and his nerdy former classmate (Brian McElhaney) as well as Eden (Kelly), the school beauty with whom he was once hopelessly in love and who married the school’s star quarterback.

Elliot is haunted by an episode from his past when he sabotaged a high school production of a play written by Sonny just so he could assume the lead role and kiss Eden onstage. So when he finds out that Sonny is missing, he takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, whose elements strangely correspond to the play that he wrote.

Things become even more complicated when Eden’s husband turns up dead, an apparent suicide, with clues pointing to the school’s principal and Eden’s father who has long detested Elliot.

The Encyclopedia Brown-style mystery essentially serves as a vehicle for heavy doses of absurdist humor, with the gags varying wildly in their effectiveness. But the droll performances by the mainly youthful cast do garner some laughs, with Oki especially funny as Sonny when he finally does make his appearance.

Utilizing flashbacks and cutaways to good effect, the filmmaker displays an impressive flair for visual humor, although he’s less than successful in handling the darker tonal shifts.

Dohring makes for an appealing doofus in the lead role, and Kelly, once named by Esquire Magazine as a “Sexiest Woman Alive,” lives up to the title with a sultry turn that proves she will one day make for a formidable femme fatale.  

Opens August 31 (FilmBuff)
Production: Red Productions, Westbrook Media, ATM Productions
Cast: Jason Dohring, Minka Kelly, Masi Oka, Michael Hogan, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, Clarke Peters
Director/screenwriter: Andrew Disney
Producers: Greg Beauchamp, Red Sanders
Director of photography: Jeffrey Waldron
Editor: Sam Parnell
Production designer: Bob Lavallee
Music: Alice Wood
No rating, 94 min.