Judge Erich Asperschlager takes medication for viral videos.
Directed by Bruce
For his second feature film, writer-director Jordan Roberts looks to the Internet and its uncanny ability to make normal people famous in embarrassing ways. Frankie Go Boom (also known by the longer title 3, 2, 1…Frankie Go Boom) is an indie comedy with a recognizable cast and some interesting ideas that come and go as fast as the latest viral video.
Facts of the Case
Ever since they were kids, Frankie (Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy) has been the unwitting star of films made by his brother Bruce (Chris O'Dowd, Bridesmaids), usually at Frankie's expense. After Bruce uploads a video from Frankie's disastrous wedding, he retreats to a trailer in the desert where he can write his novel and avoid his family. Frank is finally drawn back home by his mother (Nora Dunn, Saturday Night Live) to celebrate Bruce's release from rehab. After the ceremony, Frankie runs into a jilted, and very drunk girl named Lassie (Lizzy Caplan, Save the Date). She entices Frankie back to his parent's garage for a one night stand that almost doesn't happen because of his inability to perform. The next day, Frankie finds out that Bruce secretly taped his night with Lassie, although only long enough to immortalize his erectile dysfunction. Even worse, Bruce has given the DVD to a movie star (Chris Noth, Sex and the City) he met in rehab—who also turns out to be Lassie's father. What follows is Frankie's desperate quest to retrieve the video before Lassie and her father find out, including hiring a transsexual computer hacker (Ron Perlman, Drive) to remove the non-sex tape from the Internet, where it has become a viral hit.
Frankie Go Boom has a lot going for it. Jordan Roberts twists the raunch comedy staple by making the sex tape McGuffin a video without any actual sex. The joke is Frankie's impotence and Sarah's increasingly desperate attempts to get him in the mood, but the climax (so to speak) of their encounter is the kind of genuine emotional exchange you won't find in adult movies. Unfortunately, that emotion is limited to the night the pair meet. Once the story moves into manic "find the DVD" mode, the romance is sidelined for goofy gags. Roberts also has some interesting things to say about filmmaking and the destructive nature of the artistic process. We meet Bruce after a stint at rehab that did nothing to fix his real addiction: making movies. Even when he learns that Lassie's father is an emotionally unstable action movie star who will kill them if he finds out about the sex tape, Bruce can't resist the lure of viral video fame. In most movies, that disconnect would end in self-destruction. In Frankie Go Boom, the one in danger of destruction is his brother.
The film's biggest strength is its cast, packed top-to-bottom with recognizable faces. Charlie Hunnam hearkens back to his early comedic ensemble work on Judd Apatow's Undeclared as Frankie. He spends most of the movie reacting to the insanity around him, with a few choice opportunities to let loose. A lot of Hunnam's reactions are to The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd as Bruce, who carries a lot of the film as its chaotic center. Lizzy Caplan is very funny as Lassie; it's just too bad she doesn't have more to do. Her burgeoning relationship with Frankie should drive the plot. Instead, it feels like an afterthought. Rounding out the cast are Chris Noth as Lassie's crazy movie star dad, Nora Dunn and Sam Anderson as Frankie's parents, and Hunnam's Sons of Anarchy co-star Ron Perlman playing against type as transsexual Phyllis.
Jordan Roberts lured his amazing cast with a "funny" script. At least, that's the word everyone uses to describe it in the making-of featurette. For all its interesting ideas and onscreen talent, the film is a run-of-the-mill low budget comedy. It tries to be funny, it tries to be wacky, it tries to be raunchy, but doesn't push any of those far enough. The cast deliver the lines well, but the gags tend to be juvenile. If you giggle at the thought of Ron Perlman in drag, or think pigs falling in pools is the height of hilarity, this movie is for you. The plot revolves around the increasingly ridiculous lengths to which Frankie goes to retrieve the video. Yet those lengths aren't all that ridiculous, probably due to budgetary limitations. Instead, the wackiness comes from characters acting and reacting in ways that only make sense in a movie. There are subtle suggestions that the film we're watching is one of Bruce's self-serving productions (it would certainly explain why everyone besides Frankie bends over backwards to accommodate him), but it's too subtle to excuse the problems. The same is true for the dirty bits. The best sex comedies know how far to push the jokes and the audience. Frankie Go Boom's half steps towards raunch are in an awkward middle ground that's as sexless as the secret video that sets the plot in motion. You can tell everyone involved had a blast making this movie. I wish watching it was half as fun.
Frankie Go Boom is a competent digital production, and the Red One footage is sharp in HD. The Blu-ray has solid blacks, color, and details. There's no particular advantage to watching the film in hi-def, but it looks nice. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio isn't terribly active, but it is clean. I'm not sure the lossless audio matters, but it's nice to have.
The Blu-ray comes with a handful of bonus features:
• "Behind the Scenes" (7:50)—This requisite making-of featurette puts the actors front and center, trying too hard to convince us that the script is funny and the actors are playing believable characters.
• "Deleted and Alternate Scenes" (10:58)—Six low-fidelity scenes with director introduction and oddly bad frame rates: Frank and Bruce after meeting with Phyllis; Frankie on the phone with Lassie; an alternate version of the treadmill scene; two versions of a late-movie phone call; the full take of Nora Dunn as the devil; and a different cut of the ending.
• "The Pig is In the Pool" (1:21)—A look at the iconic-ish scene.
There's a better movie buried in Frankie Go Boom under the dumb jokes and forced romance. Jordan Roberts has something interesting to say about the messy, sometimes hurtful process of filmmaking, and the voyeurism of viral videos. It's just not enough to justify a feature film.
Needs more LOLs.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2013 Erich Asperschlager; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.