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D. Allen Stephens
When I received the DVD, my older brother looked at the box and read the back, and his response was "Wow, there is nothing I would rather watch less". To this, my reaction was simply "First, no one is asking you to. And second, it's not for you". Little did I know that this is actually one of the major themes of the CS's cinematic debut.
Firstly, Nostalgia Critic may have been the gateway drug to TGWTG, but the Cinema Snob is the reason I keep coming back, especially after the tremendous loss of theSpoonyOne from the site (he is a close second to CS as my favorite), and to see these two still working together just made me so glad to see them not deprive the internet community of their amazing chemistry. I hope their collaborations continue for years to come.
Brad Jones is one of the most charismatic and witty personalities on the internet, and this is simply a showcase of his immense talent, brought to us by the talented folks he has managed to surround himself with. That said, while the film does lose momentum a bit in the third act, it never feels rush or poorly paced. TeamSnob has something important to say about the state of culture, and uses their time on film wisely. Also, Springfield has never looked prettier during the day or more sinister at night.
Brad carries the show, no question about it. Craig Golightly's alter ego is clearly a manifestation of the conflict within him, the desire to make something important but only being able to make trash. But trash this ain't. This theme was also sort of looked at with the CS's subplot in the TGWTG film 'To Boldly Flee'. What lives on, integrity or infamy? Beauty or shock?
Special mention has to be made of Noah Antwiler aka Spoony. He absolutely steals every scene he is in. I've always thought Spoony was naturally talented and effortlessly sharp, and he really hits a stride here. Orlando as well really gets it and owns his Vladmir character, spewing out one of the best lines in the whole movie near the end. They both play it just wacky enough that the jokes work, and they seem to exist just outside the real world. The rest of the actors who make up the film club are excellent mock-ups of the various reasons why people get into art films - to be pretentious, because they were shamed into it by being told their taste was wrong, because they have voyeuristic fantasies, etc. Each is like a little call-out to the Eberts of the world.
The film making and direction are top notch, and really display their growth as a production crew. Ryan and co. are clearly learning from their past works like 'Hooker' and 'Paranoia'. The pacing and editing are tighter, and the timing of the jokes really hit 80-90% of the time. It sometimes even rivals a lot of major independent works. TCSM is in a world of it's own, and it allows itself to really indulge in it, very much like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, even going so far in one bar scene to use what could be called a trademark Sunny gag ("Yeah, I'm still here").
Alas, there are always a few shortcomings, and they had to do with casting. I think Jake was fine as Neil, but I don't think he really quite fit the role, especially opposite someone with the personality of the CS. Not that he was terrible, but something about the mixing made him sound like he had a lisp, which I know from the CS site he certainly doesn't. It was a little distracting. Brian Lewis's Scott Bakula was a complete throwaway. I really dig the guy, but he was wasted here. AND WHERE WAS JERRID? But nothing spoiled the overall film, and these are minor squabbles from a devoted fan. I was laughing out loud too much to really be dragged down by them.
From the worst modern independent films (Birdemic) to the best, this should rank up there as one of the top from the Internet 2.0 era. With most independent films of this kind, you usually find yourself forgiving the shortcomings and looking the other way when a glaring flub occurs because you are constantly reminded of the limits of the film makers. Any message or emotions are lost because the audience is too distracted by the miracle that a completed film was even made. But there was rarely a moment that took me out of the story here. I got their point, and it came across with style and quality.
The message, as others have pointed out, is great: don't apologize for your taste. Do what you love, and love what you want to. The CS is the perfect vehicle to make this point - he himself is the contradiction in most creative people. His reach exceeds his grasp. You watch his series, and the humor comes from the fact that his intellect and his taste are completely opposite and always fighting within him. And who wins? The viewing public.
Bless them for trying to make a film that reached beyond the fanbase. People who get the CS and the generation of internet reviewers born from the MST3k era will love this film, and people who don't get it, that's okay. They're not supposed to.
ps - props to Big Box Model Jillian for giving up the goods.
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