3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom - SideReel Review

3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom - SideReel Review

The "quirky indie comedy" has become a genre unto itself, in which the benchmark has become just how many strange and ridiculous things can befall the protagonists before they can wrap things up in a bow at the end. With 3, 2, 1…Frankie Go Boom, writer and director Jordan Roberts seemingly set out to establish the world record in cinema quirkdom, grimly determined to see how much absurdity he can cram into a film and still have a narrative. You want cigar-chomping transgender Internet criminals? Psychotic washed-up movie stars with pet pigs who like to jog in the nude? Celibate Christian movie producers who see angels hovering about them? Online pornographers that think impotence could be the next big thing? Kvetching parents who insist on discussing their grown kids’ sex lives at length? You get all that and much, much more, all in just under 90 minutes, in 3, 2, 1…Frankie Go Boom. On the other hand, if you want it to be especially funny, or for it all to make much sense, well, that doesn’t appear to be part of Roberts’ agenda.

In the movie, Frankie (played by Charlie Hunnam) has exiled himself to a trailer in the desert of Death Valley, and it’s not hard to see why he’s cut off ties from his family. Frankie’s older brother Bruce (Chris O’Dowd) spent much of their childhood making Frankie the unwilling "star" of home videos in which he humiliated his sibling, peaking years later with Bruce taping Frankie’s breakdown as his fiancee dumped him at the altar in favor of his best man -- and then posting the clip on the Internet, where it racked up more than three million views. Bruce has been in frequent legal trouble owing to his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and when Frankie’s parents (Nora Dunn and Sam Anderson) invite him to a party celebrating Bruce’s latest release from rehab, Frankie is wary (in part because his parents have enabled Bruce at every turn) but he attends against his better judgment.

On his way home from Bruce’s "graduation," Frankie literally collides with Lassie (Lizzy Caplan), a woman wearing candy lingerie en route to a rendezvous with her boyfriend, and when she drunkenly passes out in the street, Frankie lets her stay in the shed/guest room behind his folks’ house. Frankie and Lassie have sex, though not without a lot of initial embarrassment and difficulty, and in the morning Frankie decides he’d like to see Lassie again. That’s before he discovers Bruce has been up to his old tricks; Bruce videotaped Frankie’s initially unsuccessful attempts to make love to Lassie and has handed a copy over to his girlfriend Claudia (Whitney Cummings), who works for an outfit that markets sex tapes on line. Frankie is angry that his brother violated his privacy, while Bruce is offended that his brother won’t support him in his career as a "filmmaker." Bruce changes his mind about taking the video off the web, however, when he learns Lassie’s father is Jack (Chris Noth), a once-successful action star who befriended Bruce in rehab. Bruce thinks Jack could be his ticket to a career in Hollywood, except for the fact Jack is a borderline lunatic who is fiercely protective of his daughter and has few qualms about using his gun.

3, 2, 1…Frankie Go Boom has been built around the notion that Frankie is somewhat normal, and everyone else around him is to some degree insane, and the film’s parade of willful eccentricity starts to wear out its welcome within a half-hour or so. (The trope that Frankie’s folks don’t see any problems with Bruce’s history of car theft and torturing his brother goes stale even faster.) Jordan Roberts hasn’t created a set of colorful characters, but instead thrown together a parade of cardboard cut-outs who are weird for their own sake, and while he’s assembled an able comic cast who try hard with what they’re given, there’s only so much they can do with Roberts’ graceless script and hobbled pacing. As the sole reasonable character, Charlie Hunnam struggles but can barely bring Frankie to life (stunned and appalled represents 90 percent of his emotional range), and though Chris O’Dowd is considerably livelier as Bruce, his arrogant cluelessness is a one-note shtick that only goes so far. Chris Noth is truly fearless in his over-the-top turn as egocentric Jack, though his willingness to go all out sadly points out the character’s lack of depth, and Ron Perlman seems to be having a splendid time playing against type as Phyllis, an underworld mechanic who has only recently completed his sex-change operation, but Roberts should have reigned him in a bit better, as he often plays too strong even by this film’s standards. 3, 2, 1…Frankie Go Boom is a movie that’s full of broad comic ideas, but shows no real knack for actually making them funny, and it’s a true misfire no matter how much effort the cast put into bailing out this sinking ship.

-Mark Deming


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