Judge Joel Pearce was sober for 127 days before he watched this movie.
Welcome to My Decline
While Bob Funk has some of the most misleading packaging I've ever seen, it's actually a pretty decent film. Just don't go in expecting the romantic comedy that the cover says you'll find on the disc within.
Facts of the Case
The aptly named Bob Funk (Michael Leydon Campbell, Sidewalks of New York) is in pretty deep personal trouble. His alcoholism is getting in the way of his sales job at the futon store that his mother (Grace Zabriskie, The Grudge) owns. When he screws up yet again, his mother turfs him, placing him under the charming but awkward Ms. Thorne (Rachael Leigh Cook, Nancy Drew). Unfortunately, Bob refuses to accept the reality that his life is falling apart around him.
The cover of Bob Funk doesn't exactly inspire confidence. The front is dominated by the bum of a young woman in pink panties, and a pullquote that Bob Funk is "Rachael Leigh Cook's best film since She's All That." While that may well be true (confirmed by a quick glance at her IMDb record), it's not a promise that it's going to be a cinematic classic.
Equally strange are the omissions in the promotional material. Even though Michael Leydon Campbell is at the core of the film, he is not mentioned anywhere on the cover. The film is named after his character, and for good reason. After all, it isn't really a romantic comedy. Instead, it focuses on Bob's midlife crisis and struggles with alcoholism. Much of it isn't funny, especially as we see the aftermath of his one night stands. Campbell's performance is really solid—Bob is a character that we dislike strongly but also grow to care about.
This character development is bolstered by some decent writing and direction from Craig Carlisle. This is his feature-length directorial debut, and it shows surprising confidence and polish. While I can't say this with any certainty, it feels like a script written by someone who has gone through similar experiences. It is both sincere and heartfelt.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, there is not only good news. Bob Funk suffers from a number of weaknesses and problems as well. Carlisle has tried to shoehorn a romantic comedy into the film, but it doesn't fit well. The romantic subplot between Bob and a girl at the bar—played by Amy Ryan (Changeling), who gets third billing despite ten minutes of screen time—is largely ineffective, and Cook seems to exist in a completely different film. She plays that archetypal romantic comedy female who is likable but also completely clumsy, which makes her depend on the men in her life. This can be endearing, but not in such a serious character study. It feels as though Carlisle was pressed to make a film he didn't really want to—forcing in genre conventions to appeal to a larger audience. Bob Funk would have been a much stronger film if he had stuck to his own artistic vision.
Even worse, the futon company is full of other stock characters, including Saturday Night Live alumni and Steven Root trying to channel his performance from Office Space. Bob exists in a very different film than the characters who surround him.
The DVD is also underwhelming. The image quality is a bit soft overall, though only so much can be expected from indie productions. More troubling is a high level of compression on the DVD, which is only single-layered and would have benefited from the higher bitrate of a dual-layer DVD. The sound suffers a similar fate, with a low bitrate 5.1 track that lacks detail and focus. The only special feature on the disc is a stills gallery, and I would like to have seen a commentary track from Carlisle.
Thankfully, the problems in Bob Funk don't overwhelm its real value. It's a fascinating character study and a solid indie film. As long as you can enter it without too many expectations and turn a blind eye to some awkward moments, you just might find yourself surprised by a competent drama.
Not guilty, now that Bob has gone through therapy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
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