Judge Gordon Sullivan's vodka-spiked snow cones didn't go over so well.
Climbing your way DOWN the corporate ladder
American film owes a lot to Austin, Texas. Austin gave us Richard Linklater, which was boon enough, but without him we wouldn't have Kevin Smith and much of what is great about independent cinema in the '90s. Then there's Robert Rodriguez, a technical innovator and artist par excellence, so Austin is obviously a fertile place for filmmakers. Out of this culture steps Travis Knapp, who is a "burned out banker-turned-filmmaker" according to the press release for this film. His first flick is a comedy that looks at the search for fast money in trouble economic times, and while not wholly successful, I don't think it's a bad thing that Knapp gave up his day job.
Sno Cone, Inc. is the story of a bunch of corporate trainees at Miller Stinch. There, they are treated like dirt while having to maintain a high degree of success at cold-calling potential clients. All of them are fed up with their jobs, but only two of them decide to do anything about it. Sonny (Ryan Carnes, Trailer Park of Terror) and Tony (Steve LiGambi, Mysterious) decide to open up a snow cone stand to get rich. Naturally this earns them the contempt of their corporate masters, and shenanigans ensue as the pair try to make their new business work.
Like most first films, Sno Cone Inc. is a mixed bag. The chief strength is obviously the acting, which is way above par for the average first independent film. First off, the writer/director managed to get the money/pull to cast Tony Sirico (of Sopranos fame) and Morgan Fairchild as sales managers, to good result. Also, the cast of young leads is uniformly strong. Ryan Carnes carries much of the film with his square-jawed good looks, but Steve Ligambi, Luis Jose Lopez, and the others take their characters and run with them. It's a good showing all the way around.
The other thing I can say for Knapp is that he knows his way around a camera. Sno Cone Inc. looks like a professional piece of filmmaking by an experienced director. There are extensive locations, a large cast, and the "look" of the film is anything but cheap. Most films about young guys and a business venture utilize a single location (Clerks for instance) and stick with it for 90 minutes. Sno Cone instead gives us a mobile business, a nice twist on the formula which offers plenty of opportunities for interesting visuals. Wrangling visual interest in a comedy is not an easy skill to learn, so kudos to Knapp for getting it right out of the gate.
Where the film suffers, however, is in the comedic department. Although the setting and business are new, the basic premise is a bit tired. We have the irresponsible dreamer (Sonny), the overbearing boss (Tony Sirico doing a less dark version of Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross), and the huge mass of people who don't believe in him. There are a few chuckles to be had here and there, but mostly the film is amusing rather than outright funny. That's not a horrible thing for a movie to be, but often times Sno Cone Inc comes off as a little too generic, a little too "made for cable." The film certainly has potential, but for most of the runtime it feels like it's idling along, happy to go for the easy laughs instead of digging deeper.
It's also a little too easy to spot the influences on Sno Cone. The early scenes have a Glengarry Glenn Ross vibe, but Office Space seems to have exerted the most influence on the film. It's hard to say if these influences were conscious, or if the slightly generic feel to the movie just makes it seem like the film is borrowing from several sources.
I got a screener of Sno Cone Inc., so final specs are up for grabs. However, the film had a clean anamorphic presentation with no compression or source problems, and the Dolby Digital audio was clean with audible dialogue. The only extra included was a copy of the film's soundtrack on CD.
Sno Cone Inc. is a solid independent comedy, homegrown in Austin, Texas. Although not as laugh-out-loud funny as its influences, Sno Cone Inc. will be enjoyed by fans of low-key comedy.
They may be climbing down the corporate ladder, but Sno Cone Inc. is not guilty.
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