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The problem with offbeat comedies is that they often seem desperately in need of a trim. Even well-loved films like The Big Lebowski,The Blues Brothers and current midnight-show favorite Wet Hot American Summer seem like they would have been better if a little less time had been spent between jokes. Advantage Hart does not have this problem. The new short film, playfully directed by newcomer Jeff Seibenick, is a rousing 34 minutes of comedy. In fact, the film is probably exactly what would happen if you squished the wacky humor of a 90minute comedy into a nice bite-size version. In only 34 minutes, the film has the emotional melodrama of a sports hero movie, the contrived romance plot of a teeny-bopper comedy, the gratuitous curses and butt shots of any National Lampoon sex romp and the sunny warmth and naïve brightness of a Disney Channel special. But most importantly, "Advantage Hart" parodies all of the very same styles it follows. The novelty of the film's overwritten style is the extent to which it doesn't take movies seriously. If you can't appreciate humor that's a little subtle, it's easy to miss the dopey charm of a movie with solemnly delivered lines like, "I can smell it in my bones." Advantage Hart certainly isn't without problems - the two main actors look too much alike, the borderline sincerity swings back and forth between comedy subgenres and the immediacy of the humor and gags begins to feel a little too frantic, like someone trying to pack a little more food into an already full stomach because they're running late. But for a project hell-bent on delirious brevity, Advantage Hart ages to take the time for some nice moments, particularly with Scrubs' Sam Lloyd as young Shad's coach, and the coach's perversely unhinged wife. Amber Mellott, playing the less attractive friend Shad doesn't seem to notice, also adds a cheerful toughness to a tired joke. This busy little movie is pretty sure it can win you over, and, by the end, probably will. Most importantly, though, if you look at the ages and statuses of the people who made it, Advantage Hart seems less like a jumbled hybrid and more like a promise of work to come. Already, the film's actors are beginning to move into TV and movies, the writers and director probably won't be too far behind. In a short film they've created a story with about five movies running through it: it's time for these guys to take the next step with a feature. Hey, who knows how their comedy might turn out if they're given the chance to do the full-length version?
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