Judge David Johnson invites all of you to come visit picturesque Manchvegas. New for 2009: Indoor Plumbing!
Shout out to the Granite State.
From the folks behind Freaky Farley—a charming little indie flick I reviewed a while back—comes this mystery/comedy/whatever which brings the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire to bustling, exuberant life. Well, actually, that's not true, because it's rare that Manchester is bustling or exuberant, but as a local boy I need to do my part to encourage tourism.
Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in ManchVegas tells the story of the ManchVegas Outlaw Society (M.O.S.), a trio of adventure-seekers who deliver hot dogs, newspapers, and lemonade by day and solve mysteries by night. Their leader is Marshall (Matt Farley), an ambitious entrepreneur who splits his time between cannonballing into the Merrimack River off a rope swing and pining fruitlessly for the affections of his second-in-command, Jenny.
The latest mystery facing M.O.S. is a series of killings that have descended upon ManchVegas. Someone is murdering brides-to-be and, to lure out the perpetrator, Marshall, Jenny, and All-Star Pete put a bold plan into action. Meanwhile, a young woman who was herself engaged is captured by a tribe of mythological forest beasts that apparently speak a dialect of Jawa.
That's a pretty wild set-up and, as haphazard as the plot sounds (and is sometimes executed), I reckon it can be firmly placed into the plus column. This is a creative, original movie. Despite the usual obstacles that face low-budget filmmakers (amateur acting, uncooperative weather, goofy props), ManchVegas turns out to be a fun, off-beat effort.
Granted there might be a molecule of bias, since it gives my home state of New Hampshire some love, but I'm telling you, there is some objective fun to be had here. The humor is dry and effective, never laid on thick, which complements the subdued tone of the film. There are monsters, stabbings, and fight scenes, but everyone underplays it. It is a successful formula, because these guys aren't bombastic which adds charm to the proceedings. Love or hate the film, it's obvious they're not hacks.
Like their previous release, ManchVegas is recorded entirely on film, giving it a nostalgic feel, while avoiding the cheap look of countless other Handycam low-budget excursions. No question the budget was miniscule (according to Farley, the expenses are all out of pocket, and he and his partners work for a year or two between projects to generate funding for the next film), but at least the 16mm stock lends an appreciatively unique look.
Give this a whirl. Not everything works (the school excavation sequences never gelled, and there are some truly laughable performances), but there's enough charm and originality to compensate. Besides, you don't really need to watch the latest Anaconda vs. Giant Hamster straight-to-DVD movie do you? This is suitable viewing for most anyone—no language, nudity, or blood.
A nifty DVD awaits, starting with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 2.0 stereo audio. Add on a commentary with Farley, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and outtakes. Missing? Some music videos of the genuinely funny original songs that appeared in the film.
Not Guilty. Don't ask how Manchester go the nickname "ManchVegas." I've been living here five years and have no idea.
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