Two Comedies from Peace Arch
The Amateurs (June 1/08)
Though infused with a host of charming performances and several individually compelling sequences, The Amateurs - saddled with a strangely inert sensibility - ultimately finds itself unable to hold the viewer's interest for more than a few minutes at a time. There's subsequently little doubt that the seemingly can't-miss premise - the residents of a small town, led by Jeff Bridges' likeable Andy Sargentee, agree to produce a pornographic movie - is squandered as writer/director Michael Traeger places the emphasis on increasingly ineffective elements, with the filmmaker's less-than-cinematic modus operandi exacerbated by the inclusion of sitcom-level jokes and supporting characters (ie Joe Pantoliano plays a dimwit named Some Idiot). And while the myriad of familiar faces try their best to infuse the proceedings with some life - William Fichtner is, in particular, quite amusing here - Traeger's lackluster, cobbled-together screenplay consistently undermines their collective efforts (Bridges' relentless narration surely doesn't help matters). The end result is an amiable effort that never quite takes off, as the pervadingly (and surprisingly) amateurish atmosphere proves exceedingly difficult to overlook.
With its almost total lack of positive attributes, Cattle Call establishes itself as an extraordinarily tedious effort almost immediately - with the inclusion of three unusually sleazy central characters certainly not doing the proceedings any favors. The plot follows said trio - Thomas Ian Nicholas' Richie, Andrew Katos' Sherman, and Diedrich Bader's Glenn - as they hold auditions for a fake production in the hopes of meeting girls, with the remainder of the film devoted to their subsequent attempts at sustaining the illicit ruse. Writer/director Martin Guigui has infused Cattle Call with a pervadingly low-rent sensibility that's exacerbated by an absolute dearth of laughs, as the emphasis is placed on jokes and gags of a consistently inept and downright unfunny nature. That Guigui's erratic screenplay has been padded out with interminable footage of the central characters' egregiously sexist auditions certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the inclusion of an eye-rollingly conventional storyline that even includes a laughable post fake break-up sequence in which Richie sadly wanders the streets of Los Angeles (in slow motion, no less!) With the exception of a sporadically compelling subplot revolving around Richie's relationship with a sweet would-be actress named Marina (Jenny Mollen), Cattle Call primarily comes off as an entirely worthless endeavor that might just mark the bottom of the proverbial barrel for the National Lampoon organization.