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Review: 'Video Stop' 

***
click to enlarge The Video Stop crew.
  • The Video Stop crew.

You want to talk about weird? I'll tell you about weird.

On Monday I watched a screener of a locally made film, a comedy called Video Stop which will be screened at 7 p.m. Saturday at the IMAX Theater downtown at the Indiana State Museum. My editor at NUVO asked me to give it a look-see. There's a scene where the lead character, RJ McReady (Nathan Boyer), applies for a writing position at NUVO. He charges past the receptionist and goes to the office of NUVO executive Tony Hammer (Jim Poyser, my boss of 15 years) and asks Jim ... er, Mr. Hammer, to add him to the staff.

"We're not hiring until the end of summer," says Mr. Hammer. RJ tosses a folder containing writing samples on the desk and pleads his case, which boils down to, "I really want the job and I've got a free movie pass, so it won't cost the paper anything for me to review films." Mr. Hammer reflects, acknowledges his admiration of RJ's determination, and offers him a part-time position reviewing movies on the NUVO website, telling him, "If you average 1,000 hits a week, we'll talk full-time."

So there I sat, NUVO's lead film reviewer for 15 years, watching my boss of 15 years playing a fictionalized NUVO executive giving my job to somebody else ... without even reading his writing samples.

Everything suddenly went blurry. I woke up minutes later to find myself curled in the fetal position, muttering repeatedly, "It's only a movie. It's only a movie." Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the verisimilitude?

See, when I said weird, I wasn't dicking around.

Anyhoo, the film, written and directed by Adam Newell, is a comic coming-of-age story (the boundaries for coming-of-age, by the way, have been extended from tweens and teens to those in their mid-to-late twenties) set in Indianapolis focusing on McReady, freshly fired from his job at a movie theater for refusing to sell tickets to a Brendan Fraser flick (you'll find out why later in the film), and now moping around the house while his roommie Frank (Joel McClurg) tries to boost his spirits.

Frank helps RJ secure a job at Video Stop, a local DVD rental shop with fewer videos on display than a suburban branch of the library. The store is manned by Loni (Andy Maraldo), his mentally challenged brother Foyt (Chris Spurgin) and wanna-be stand-up comic Anthony (Matt Thompson). There's a certain Clerks vibe at first, but these Hoosier fellows are much nicer. Check out the downright touching scene where Foyt gets upset after hearing a phone message where he's referred to as an "inbred retard" and his brother Loni lovingly tends to him. Very nice. Romance mixes with comedy as RJ tries to rekindle an old relationship with Maria (Chelsea Anderson) while her sister Lindsay (Emily Wood) aggressively attempts to stop him.

Newell directs ably, although he lingers a bit too long on some of the establishing shots. Mike Akers' score, which includes some dandy area music, is strong enough that I hope a soundtrack disc is released. The cast is fine - I particularly liked Nathan Boyer and Andy Maraldo - but the comic stand-out is writer-director Newell as Derrick Flowers, a wildly inventive fitness freak (and ganja salesman).

As for the screenplay, it's about what you'd expect from a raunchy comedy with a sweet soul by relative newcomers. Bathroom and body function jokes abound, with wacky hijinks pushing the limits of credulity, even for the genre. But I didn't mind, because I liked the characters enough to want to spend time with them even when a particular gag didn't work for me.

And with that I conclude my review of Video Stop. Please ask 999 friends of yours to check it out. Otherwise, I may soon have an even weirder day than I did on Monday.

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