Case Number 25947: Small Claims Court


Magnolia Pictures // 2012 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // July 11th, 2013

The Charge

Be Careful What You Wish For...

The Case

The current economic clime has hit under-employed sweethearts Alice (Juno Temple, Magic Mike) and John (Michael Angarano, Red State) rather hard. While their friends seem to be succeeding, they can't get their footing financially. Of course, it's hard when you're a recent college graduate with a laughable art history degree (she), or a tired telemarketer whose horrible at their job (him).

One day, our marrieds have a car accident and end up near one of those antique shops that only appear in the movies. Alice swipes the title item from the gray-haired hag merchant who runs the place and the couple soon learns its intriguing secret. The teapot spews out money whenever someone nearby experiences pain.

Quickly realizing that their money problems will be a thing of the past if they merely give in to the magical device's harm-based payouts, the duo hurt themselves into a better lifestyle. In the meantime, a pair of Orthodox Jews (Thomas Middleditch, The Campaign; Robert Michael McClure, The Brave One) who claim the pot for themselves and a mystical Asian man (Stephen Park, Fargo) who tries to convince our duo to stop their greedy ways and pursue a more moral path make things complicated.

Now here's a high concept for you. Taking a minor magical realism angle and amplifying it into an entire feature film (the material started as a short, and probably should have stayed there), The Brass Teapot wants to be a contemporary fable about the failing American Dream. It longs to make its point with brazen black comedy and satiric notes on the current state of our desperate fiscal times. But director Ramaa Mosley does herself and her story (she created it for a comic book, with Tim Macy crafting the screenplay) a disservice by not understanding the idea's inherent limits.

If you pose the following possibility -- amount of pain equals amount of cash -- and then turn your teapot tenuous, no longer "happy" with kicks to the groin and fake S&M bedroom sessions, you place a premium on pain that can only lead one place, and believe it or not, The Brass Teapot doesn't really want to be that kind of movie. Instead, it's a clear example of quasi-hipster cinema that thinks it's being clever, as it repeatedly bashes its head into the wall to make its blatantly obvious points. It's not a bad film, just a slight one. We want more meat here, more truth mixed in with the mannerism. Sadly, the story and the scenarios don't deliver.

As a Blu-ray release, The Brass Teapot excels. It has a terrific 2.39:1 transfer, the colors crisp and the details well defined. Mosley has a great eye and the compositions and framing are really sold by the HD presentation. As for the sonic situation, we get a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that basically ignores the back channels, but as this is a conversation based comedy with little in the way of action, such limits are okay.

In the added content department, the disc is fully fleshed out with a number of excellent extras. First, there is a commentary featuring Mosley and her producer pal P. Jennifer Dana which functions like a how-to when it comes to low budget filmmaking. There is also another making-of which offers some intriguing insights during its near half hour running time. There's also some decent deleted scenes, interviews with Mosley and Angarano, and a trailer. Not bad for such a nominal effort.

In fact, it's easy to give The Brass Teapot a pass. The concept offers enough intrigue to keep you amused, while much of the subtext easily comes through. It could have been better. It could also have been a lot worse.

The Verdict

Not guilty. A diversion for those looking for something different.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

* English (SDH)
* Spanish

Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Featurette
* Interviews
* Deleted Scenes
* Trailer

* IMDb