Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his widowed mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his unhappily married brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
Boys behaving badly. Jay, a middle-class high-school sophomore, hangs out in his L.A. suburb with slackers, dopers, petty thieves and punks. Everyone has a nickname; his is Worm. His best friend, John, aka Mt. Rushmore, severely beats another student at a wedding Jay and his pals crash. At the wedding, Jay falls for Wendy, one of the jock clique. Jay has his code: no ratting out your friends. So, when the beating victim dies, Jay doesn't help the cops. Meanwhile, his relationship with Wendy develops quickly into a first love. With knives, whiskey, and drugs close at hand, can Jay navigate assaults on his manhood, the strains of friendship, and the whispers of commitment? Written by
A Coming of Age Story with a Noticeable Identity Crisis
"The Good Humor Man" is a movie that takes place in the suburbs during the spring of 1976 and is about a smart high schooler whose parents question his choice in friends. Judging from the cover art of the DVD, it looks like a comedy very similar to its predecessors like "Dazed & Confused " (1993) , "Detroit Rock City" (1999), and the short-lived but legendary TV series "Freaks & Geeks" (1999-2000). The first 30 minutes of the movie feel like a comedy too, especially with Jorge Garcia playing a character nicknamed "Mt. Rushmore". It's not hard to compare Garcia to John Belushi. Not only does his facial features bear a striking resemblance to Saturday Night Live's fallen angel, but his Mt. Rushmore character lives for drinking and using drugs the same way Bluto Blutarsky did in "Animal House" (1978). Garcia echos Belushi in a unique way that miraculously doesn't translate as a rip off, and Garcia has a commanding presence on screen. Every time he's in a scene, he owns it big time.
Garcia is a supporting character in this film, the Falstaff to the Henry V that is Jay, played by Nathan Stevens. Jay is the central character, and Mt. Rushmore is the bad influence of a friend his yuppie parents (Elise Robertson and Kelsey Grammar) wish he would stop hanging out with. Jay also takes an interest in Wendy (the gorgeous Cameron Richardson), a girl in his class who is supposedly out of his league both financially and in terms of popularity. In high school, popularity is its own social class scale with blurry lines drawn that only high schoolers can see, and it's evident in this film perhaps better than in other high school movies.
So the setup for a high school comedy is here, but not even one quarter of the way through does the film take a strangely dark and dramatic turn while not letting go of its comedic ideals. Jay, Mt. Rushmore, and two other stoner buddies crash a wedding for the free booze and food. Mt. Rushmore and Jay mostly succeed in remaining incognito, but one of their friends makes anti semitic remarks to a guy their age wearing a yarmulke. Eventually, a fight breaks out resulting in more than just a damaged wedding cake. Ultimately, Mt. Rushmore gets into a fight with a popular jock at the wedding, goes from using fists to bringing out a knife, and unintentionally kills him.
This point is where the film pushed the envelope and sacrificed its comedic potential, but not its credibility. It still told a very intriguing story as Mt. Rushmore somehow manages to successfully hide from the police despite his size and his penchant for hanging out in the park with Jay and other acquaintances. Meanwhile, Jay refuses to tell the police about Mt. Rushmore's whereabouts in the only unrealistic part of the movie. Jay's reasons not to rat his friend out are understandable. In reality, it would seem as though the police would arrest him for holding evidence. Here, they shake their heads in dismay and leave, something that's unlikely to happen in real life.
Probably the scene I liked best involved Mt. Rushmore breaking into the basement of the guy he incidentally killed. There's no expression of remorse on his face, but his following actions scream through his skin that is thick both literally and figuratively. Garcia here really masters the storytelling rule of showing, not telling, and the result is quite powerful. Again, it takes the film in an unexpectedly dark direction, but not an inappropriate one.
Similarly, Jason Segel took a turn from what one would expect to be a comedic role as Smelly Bob, a 25-year-old ex-convict who for reasons unexplained likes to hang out with the stoner high school crowd. He's significantly older than the others, but doesn't look out of place and makes Matthew McConaughey's character in "Dazed & Confused" look noble. Plus, he plays a guy who's a far cry from the nice guy he would later make a name for himself as in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2007) & "I Love You, Man" (2009).
Credit to this film also lies in Stevens' and Richardson's undeniable on-screen chemistry and poignant love scenes other filmmakers may have exploited for a cheap sex gag. This effective plot point added to the 70's decor that naturally fits into the film and the appropriately grainy picture that gives the film depth makes the film unique and original enough to recommend. It's just best to know that although this film has its funny moments, it's more dramatic than the cover art suggests. It may not be the filmmakers fault, although the name of this film doesn't quite fit with the story either. A part about ice cream is mentioned in the end, but you never know who the Good Humor Man is or why. Maybe that's the point of this film, but who knows?
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