If you can make it to Jack Black's scene, then you just might love this movie.
If you read a few of the reviews that gave this movie 1/10 then you'll know how I felt for the first 10-15 mins. "Melvin Goes to Dinner" can be difficult at first, mainly because we are given no formal introduction to the characters, so if you aren't instinctively drawn to eavesdropping on tables full of seemingly self-important hipsters, you may find yourself flipping the channel. But stick with it, at least up to the Jack Black (uncredited) scene. After that, things loosen up and you may find yourself really liking these people whom you had initially hated.
What, you say? Jack Black doesn't do it for you? Even though it's one of the most bizarrely ridiculous roles he's ever played, like a deleted scene from Spinal Tap or something? Fine, well maybe you'll have fun star-spotting for appearances by Fred Armisen (Portlandia, SNL) or Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, SNL) and maybe a few others I didn't catch. They're fast.
Once you've settled in and invested some time getting to know these 4 characters and their distinct personalities, things start to get fun. Stories begin to mesh, consistent themes begin to emerge, and you're guaranteed at least 1 or 2 total "woah no way!" surprises that are worth the price of admission. By the end of the flick, what I had initially expected would be a dry, rambling, exhibition of nothing ended up being a cleverly written, well acted and ultimately rewarding experience. No, there aren't any shootouts, zombies or car chases (well... maybe 1 pseudo car chase), but in the tradition of the great plays "Who's Afraid of Virginial Woolf", "Long Day's Journey into Night" or any other classic play that focuses on a bunch of people talking for an evening, "Melvin Goes to Dinner" is a great experience.
It should be noted that the 4 main cast members are the same original cast from "Phyro-Giants" the play upon which this film is based. So they have great chemistry, and their lines flow effortlessly as if... well, as if they'd memorized every line, expression and gesture after a 100 performances or so.
The camera work is raw and unpretentious as it should be, consisting of hand held shots and frequent closeups just as you'd experience if you were sitting at the table with these people. Everything feels casual even though it was meticulously edited (by the star/writer Melvin himself on an archaic Mac computer). There are a few flashback scenes which use an interesting snapshot type presentation (which, when you think about it, is how we imagine stories that are being told to us without any reference).
If you get the DVD, be sure to watch the extras where they include some footage from the original play. The audience's reactions and laughter really add to the fun. If they ever revive the stage production of this, I'll definitely be in the front row.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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