Sony // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 28th, 2002
An office comedy.
They were temps. Now they're filmmakers. That's the summation of brothers Jacob and Josh Kornbluth, two low-budget filmmakers who have come out of the starting gate with their first major feature, the witty comedy Haiku Tunnel. The double treat Kornbluth team wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this searing tale of what happens when you decide to leave your comfortable lifestyle of "temp" to go "perm." Also starring Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap, The Simpson's), Haiku Tunnel (which has nothing to do with neither poetry nor tunnels) comes to DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Josh Kornbluth (played, not surprisingly, by Josh Kornbluth) is a portly temp worker for offices and businesses. Josh is content in his work, knowing that he has no real commitment to any one office. His work is easy, his life un-complex. Things start to change for Josh when he temps at Schuyler & Mitchell (or, as Marlina the head secretary calls it, "S & M"). Josh is shown around and meets the somewhat loony staff, including the effeminate Clifford (Brian Thorstenson), the abrasive DeVonne (June Lomena), the perky Mindy (Amy Resnick), and Josh's boss, Bob Shelby (Warren Keith, Fargo). Liked by Shelby (who is known in some circles as Lucifer himself), Josh if offered a permanent place on staff at Schuyler & Mitchell. Soon Shelby has given Josh one single, solitary task that MUST get done: mail out seventeen very important letters. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! The simplest of tasks becomes a nightmare when Josh meets every distraction known to man or temp. As the clock starts ticking, Josh beings his race to get the letters mailed before he faces the wrath of failure!
With the vaguest of memory I can recall Haiku Tunnel coming and going in the local art house theater around Pasadena. I remember that it had a very strange title, and had something to do with office work. For some odd reason I thought it was in the same vein as Being John Malkovich (please don't ask me why, I just did). A few days ago a friend of mine said with catchy enthusiasm, "you have to see this movie." And so I did. I can safely say that Haiku Tunnel was worth an hour and a half of my life.
Haiku Tunnel has a lot in common with Mike Judge's Office Space (the same guy who created the irritating "Beavis and Butthead"). Taking a pot shot at the corporate ladder, Haiku Tunnel is a demented companion piece to Judge's scathing satire. While I don't think that Haiku Tunnel is quite as funny as Office Space (let's face it, Office Space gets bonus points for making fun of TGIFriday's and Chili's), Haiku Tunnel still includes many hysterical moments that make this well worth the trip. For instance, take head secretary Marlina (played by an icy Helen Shumaker). Every office has that one chilly co-worker who seems like she just got in from the North Pole. Attention to detail shows that every time Marlina walks past Josh, a chilling wind can be heard in the background. Funny stuff. The rest of the co-works are just as strange. Mindy is that annoying chatterbox who just won't shut up, and Brain is the pessimist who never has a good word to say about anything. Lead actor Josh Kornbluth is a mix between a cartoon panda bear and Danny DeVito. Kornbluth is a likable guy who'll hopefully be showing up in more future comedies. I was especially entertained by Harry Shearer showing up as an "all day" orientation operator who shows everyone the ins and outs of working the copy machine.
Other moments of glee: Josh's introduction to the film, which is set in the fictional city of San FrancLisco (to make sure the lawyers don't track him down); Josh taking some personal time at his desk to listen to secret lyrics to Judas Priest songs played backwards; Josh receiving a call from Bob Shelby's ex-secretary, letting him know that Shelby is "evil" and "the devil!"; Josh's attempt to order just a Diet Coke with co-workers, and instead ending up with one of those mammoth alcoholic drinks dubbed the "volcano"; and my personal favorite, Harry Shearer dressed as a leather clad S&M artist (oh, you just have to see the movie to see what I'm talking about).
Haiku Tunnel won't turn the filmmaking world on its axis. It's a light and humorous comedy that takes a bite out of the temp pool that many of us have come to know and hate. There are some hit or miss scenes, though the bulk of Haiku Tunnel is funny and topical. I laughed, and that's all I was asking from this film. For that, it has my blessing.
Haiku Tunnel is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a film of such low-budget origins, Haiku Tunnel's transfer looks surprisingly good. A small amount of grain and dirt penetrates the image, though it's never distracting to the viewing. The color patterns are very vibrant and well saturated with the black levels appearing dark and solid. Only a small amount of edge enhancement shows up in a few key scenes. Overall Columbia has done a nice job on this transfer.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This is a moderately well mixed 5.1 soundtrack. Some directional sounds are utilized in the front and rear speakers (mostly during Marlina's breezy passing and with Marco D'Ambrosio's music score), though the bulk of this soundtrack is focused in the center speaker. All aspects of the dialogue, music, and effects are free and clear of any distortion. Also included on this disc is a Dolby 2.0 Surround track in English, as well as French subtitles.
I was surprised to see a few well placed extra features hiding on Haiku Tunnel. To start with there is an entertaining commentary track by directors/brothers Josh and Jacob Kornbluth. Lots of production detail is discussed in this track, with Josh Kornbluth coming off as much more humorous and quirky than his brother Jacob. Six non-anamorphic widescreen deleted scenes are included, and while they're nice to have, they don't add much to the final film. Also included are some outtakes from a few scenes, some filmographies on select cast and crew members, and theatrical trailers for movies Haiku Tunnel, The Tao of Steve, and Jackpot.
Goofy and offbeat, Haiku Tunnel is a little seen comedy that should make for a fun Friday night rental. I will be following the Kornbluth's cinematic paths closely: with this single effort they've established themselves as up and coming talents in the world of movies. Good luck boys!
Haiku Tunnel and Columbia are both found not-guilty on account of the fact that I've been sticking paperclips up my nose and sniffing way too much whiteout today. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Directors Josh and Jacob Kornbluth
* Cast and Filmmaker Bios
* Three Theatrical Trailers
* Deleted Scenes