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When filmmakers title their project The Long Dumb Road, it's a nod to potential viewers - a tongue-in- cheek way of saying: "Yes, it's another road movie, but we think we've got a fresh take that will amuse you."
In this case, the secret weapon is Jason Mantzoukas (The Good Place, Dirty Grandpa), the current go-to actor for nutty but endearing characters. The Long Dumb Road is a showcase for Mantzoukas, who moves into a lead role after stealing scenes as a supporting actor in earlier films and television shows.
Mantzoukas' straight man is 21-year-old Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel). He plays Nat, who is leaving the family nest and driving from Texas to Los Angeles to begin art school.
Engine trouble brings Nat together with Mantzoukas' Richard, an itinerant mechanic in his 30s who has simply bounced around since he was Nat's age. After Richard gets Nat's minivan running again, the kid agrees to him a lift to a nearby town.
Circumstances conspire to extend their trip together to Las Cruces, New Mexico, and then north to Albuquerque. Along the way, Richard's antics yank Nat out of his comfort zone, effectively demonstrating the things he can and can't control and forcing him to overcome unexpected challenges.
The two men are bookends for young adulthood. Nat has a plan he thinks he can follow. Like many of us of a certain age, Richard looks into the mirror and wonders: What the hell happened?
A number familiar faces pop up during the trip: Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) as Richard's old flame from high school, Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot) and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story, The Bling Ring) as sisters the guys pick up in a bar, Pamela Reed (Parks and Recreation) as a good Samaritan and Ron Livingston (Office Space) as Richards's frenemy Francois.
Without giving away the ending, suffice it to say that it's not the type of conclusion one usually sees in this sort of movie. Credit writer/director Hannah Fidell and cowriter Carson Mell (Silicon Valley) for finding that fresh take on a tired genre.
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