It used to be that an independent movie was something special. A director or a writer had a screenplay that was just a little too out there for a major studio to risk investing money in, so they would have to go it alone. Maybe, if they were lucky, they would land a distribution deal after the movie was made, meaning they might make their money back.
But that was years ago. Today independent movies can have budgets as big as those put out by major studios. Gone are the days when the director would mortgage his house, his grandmother, and steal his little sister’s piggy bank to make his movie. Why bother when someone will give you five million bucks and actors are dying for parts in them to gain instant “artistic” credibility?
At this years Oscar’s much was made of the fact that the nominees were predominantly independent productions. Funny thing though, it looked like all the same people acting, directing, and receiving awards. George Clooney isn’t exactly an outsider when it comes to Hollywood.
It’s become so bad that Robert Redford, sometime actor, founder of the Sundance Film Festival for independent films, has been heard saying that Sundance is getting too big. When starlets like Lucy Liu, best known for stuff like Charlie’s Angels start parading up and down the streets at the festival, or Jennifer Aniston turns in another ”brave” performance, you begin to wonder what’s so damn independent about these flicks anyway.
The films themselves are starting to get predictable in their storylines and characters. Who’d have thought there was such a thing as a safe independent movie? The audience now has certain expectations when they go see something called independent, just as they do when they go see a major Hollywood blockbuster.
The characters and plotlines have become as clichéd as anything put out by the so-called studios as producers have found what they consider a winning formula and don’t want to mess with it. Road trips to self-discovery, philosophical gangsters, deliberate plot misdirection, and quirky musical scores reign supreme. Oh, and of course, what would an independent movie be without lots of swearing and over-the-top violence?
The most surprising thing about My Big Fat Independent Movie is that no one had made it sooner. Crammed full of every cliché it can lay its hands on, and openly disparaging of every independent movie made from Pulp Fiction to Run Lola Run its crude, disgusting, full of sexual innuendo, stupid dialogue, foul language and is hysterically funny from beginning to end.
Oh sure it’s as subtle as a brick wall and as intellectually challenging as professional wrestling, but that’s half the fun. Billing itself as the lowbrow comedy for the highbrow crowd, it makes no pretensions to being anything more than a brilliantly stupid movie. High art this isn’t and thank goodness for that.
Like a scythe in a cheap horror movie, it cuts everything down in size so that no one’s a head and shoulders above anyone. All your favourites are seen minus their aspirations to arthood. Oh sure some of the jokes are more stupid than funny, but that’s to be expected when you’re shooting target practice with a grenade launcher. You’ll blow everything up, but stuff is bound to be a little messy around the edges.
In case you were wondering, there is a plot to this movie, mainly useful for bringing in the stunning variety of clichés and allusions to other movies that pepper it, but this does provide a semblance of structure for the fun. Two thugs Sam (Neil Barton) and Harvey (Eric Hoffman) are sent to Las Vegas by their employer to botch a robbery of a suitcase.
On their way, they are supposed to pick up a guy with a guitar-case full of weapons. Unfortunately, he has a tragic encounter with a semi-trailer while engaged in conversation with a French girl, Anomalie (Ashley Head) who just wants to make everyone happy. (If their idea of happiness is winding up dead in horrific accidents than she does a bang-up job.)
Instead, they pick up a guy with a trombone case, with a trombone in it; Johnny Vince (Darren Keefe) He’s happy to go along because he’s still recovering from breaking up with his girlfriend — he went out with her twice five years ago. What with the restraining order and all, it’s been difficult to try and get back together with her, and the lure of Las Vegas irresistible to the want to be hep-cat.
What independent movie would be complete without the confused and disillusioned woman who just can’t be happy with her lot in life? With that in mind, they kidnap Julianne (Paget Brewster) after some really gratuitous violence in a grocery store. Julianne is so confused that she can’t decide if her husband ignored her because he lusted after the male black gardener, or if she was dissatisfied with the life of being waited on hand and foot by a devoted husband.
As they continue along on their trip they stop for lunch at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant (the highest grossing independent restaurant ever), run over a German woman jogging, and meet up with the Lanky Man (Neil Hopkins doing a remarkable impression of Christopher Walken), who has the key to the warehouse where they are supposed to botch the robbery.
He also has the key to their obligatory fantasy scenes, until he gets so disgusted with the clichés involved he throws them all out. One of the sillier aspects, but still nicely done, is having the characters commenting on the “independent” aspects of what’s happening in the scene. Whether it’s choosing appropriately ironic music for a torture sequence, or deciding on the best way to get the audience to relate to your anti-hero’s psychotic tendencies, they’re very concerned about ensuring that they make the grade.
Along with two sub-plots — a trio of Hassidic hit men intent on discovering the formulae for the ideal corn beef sandwich, and a guy who can’t remember anything except that Kenny G. is responsible for his wife’s death — our companions finally make it to the warehouse. After the obligatory surreal dance sequence, the final showdown can take place. Suffice to say it’s just what you’d expect, but more.
My Big Fat Independent Movie is stupid, inane, pointless and howling funny. It is obviously made by people who are both fans of independent movies and who are aware of how contradictory that term is becoming. To genuinely appreciate this movie, it will help if you’ve seen the movies they’re teasing. I’m sure part of the fun for some people will be trying to identify the 30 or more features referred to in the movie.
Watching Pauly Shore getting his head blown off with what looked like a rocket launcher, and Jason Mewes as a sex-starved answering machine are just added bonuses to this delightfully intelligent, stupid movie.