Judge Christopher Kulik feels udderly compelled to recommend this film, even though it has cows, light sticks, and a Baldwin brother.
How now, cash cow?
You know those little glow sticks that light up when they break in half? In the mid- to late-1980s, they became a best-selling phenomenon. I had one myself, and they were pretty cool. I'm not sure how much of Moola is accurate in how these things became so popular, though what's true is they became useful to farmers in determining when a cow is in heat. In other words, they would put the glow stick on a cow's rump and when they are humped, the stick would activate, thus indicating artificial insemination.
While this may sound like an "udderly" stupid idea for a comedy, Moola is surprisingly engaging and enjoyable. Using the real events surrounding the success of the actual Omniglow company (based out of Massachussetts), this low-budget effort milks its premise for all its worth, and yet delivers with an energetic cast and spirited direction. I'm actually surprised this film didn't receive a theatrical release, limited or otherwise, because it's a lot better than its appearance suggests. Well, thanks to Allumination Filmworks, Moola is now on DVD for audiences to check out.
Facts of the Case
Down-on-their-luck business partners Steve (William Mapother, The Grudge) and Harry (Daniel Baldwin, Homicide: Life on the Street) are struggling to make ends meet while selling chemical light sticks. Both of their marriages are leading up to divorce, and they might have to file bankruptcy any day now.
As luck would have it, they get a call from a farmer who tells them they could be extremely valuable to the dairy industry. For years, the farmers have been using fertility indicators sold by AFI (no, not that one) to determine when cows are in heat to produce more milk. They discover that Omniglow sticks are much more practical, and thus tell our heroes they could be rich overnight.
Soon enough, one of AFI's businessmen gets wind of this and decides to take action. J.T. Montgomery (Doug Hutchison, The Green Mile) is a slimy toad of an executive who decides to make Steve & Harry an offer they cannot refuse: $40 million. It's the deal they have been waiting for all their lives…though they decide to celebrate too early.
Does the name Don Most sound familiar? No? Ok, how about Donny Most? Ah-ha! Yes, indeed, the guy who played Ralph Malph on TV's long-running Happy Days decided to go into directing. Moola is his sophomore effort and, considering his resumé, he knows the rules of comedy. Most of the laughs are generated through character reaction, resulting in everything being grounded in reality. Most's style is enthusiastic and fun, and it's no wonder he won an award last year at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
For a comedy, the first hour of Moola is dynamite. The film opens with a nice hook showing the team's initial success, and then we are treated to a snappy animated title sequence produced by Leigh Rubin. As soon as we meet the characters, we identify instantly with their situations. Steve is a likable guy who is prone to panic attacks, and we feel his frustration at his crumbling domestic existence. Harry, on the other hand, is a lot more sarcastic about his life, always looking at the negative end of things. When this unbelievable deal comes their way, they naturally change into men who taste the milk of success, and proceed to put their lives in order…aside from spending a little dough on Porsches and boats.
However, Moola is about other things besides milk money. Steve & Harry's shenanigans are funny, but first-time screenwriter Jeffrey Arbaugh makes them honest as well. He even manages to include some satirical jabs at greedy corporate clowns who equate natural motions with financial cards being played. They look at our heroes as being vulnerable idiots, though they don't realize that greed is a poor weapon. Arbaugh also appears onscreen as one of AFI's lawyers, complete with tongue firmly in cheek. (Footnote: he also includes a priceless 2001: A Space Odyssey homage I won't dare reveal.)
Moola also offers a large cast that's aiming to please. Mapother may not be a star, though he has an ordinary-guy appeal that serves the role well. Baldwin is on fire much of the time, and Hutchison has never been better. Curtis Armstrong (remember Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds movies?) is a delight as the team's lawyer, and his "negotiation dance" is a genuine scream. Also included are Treat Williams (Deep Rising) as the AFI President and Efren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) as a wacky technician.
Despite its minor status, Allumination Filmworks gives much respect to the DVD release of Moola. The 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen presentation is terrific, even though a slight softness is present due to the film's budget. Nevertheless, there are no scratches or grain present anywhere, and the picture is crystal clear. On the audio side, we have a DD 5.1 Surround track, which gives a sonic boost to the delightful score by Rick Marotta (Everybody Loves Raymond). Subtitles are provided in Spanish only.
Special features begin with a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, complete with interviews from director Most during shooting. Included are 10 minutes of deleted scenes, a trailer, and, best of all, a director's commentary. Most is a very warm speaker, providing stories and info about the film's production. While he does tend to praise his cast a bit too much, he's still great to listen to. Most also co-wrote the story (with executive producer Stan Holland), and points out several times what was true to the events that happened in real life.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, the second hour of Moola loses steam. The cast makes up for the story's predictability, but the film itself just doesn't know when to quit. At 108 minutes, Moola is slightly overlong for a comedy, and the editor could have chopped or shortened more scenes to make everything tighter. Scenes with Steve's daughter and an old acquaintance particularly dragged on a bit, and the final showdown with Hutchison's character is rather anti-climactic. This is not a major complaint, though, as the film remains an amusing ride most of the way, and the ending is certainly satisfying.
An overall fun film with good laughs and performances, Moola is recommended.
Allumination Filmworks and Moola are found not guilty. Got milk?
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