Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dave Foley and ensemble open in quasi-comedy THE STRIP from Jameel Khan

Call him a nitpicker if you must, but TrustMovies has long felt there was a difference be-
tween deadpan and dead, between the subtle and the comatose. Further, he admits that comedy -- perhaps more than most genres -- is hugely dependent upon individual taste. Which brings him to THE STRIP, a new, sort-of-comedy that has greatly enter-
tained a colleague of his (who's quoted in the film's ad) but that left TM, like Queen Victoria, not amused.

OK: I did chuckle a few times during the 90-minute slough, and believe me, I treasured those moments. Otherwise, this tale of three employees, their manager and the owner's son, all of whom labor at an off-brand, off-kilter, off-the-beaten-track electronics store located in a strip mall (hence the title: what -- you thought you were in for some T & A, or a movie about a certain area of Sunset Boulevard?) is a drab and fitful affair.

The press material assures us that this is character-driven comedy, and indeed all five of our fellows can be easily differentiated. But characters must be somewhat interesting to engage you. These guys have their character trait (maybe two) -- and that's it. They, and their movie, dawdle along, with quite typical troubles involving work, love and family (in particular, father). Lame is an adjective that comes quickly to mind.

And yet, individually, each actor is perfectly OK, including the several women on display. God knows, I've enjoyed the work of Dave Foley (who plays the store manager) ever since Kids in the Hall, and all the rest of the cast are fine, too. It's not that you groan at anything they do; they're professional and they handle their job like troupers. Instead you sit there, waiting for the comedy, which is so very small and unhurried that it evidently crept right by you while you had your eyes on the screen. Some may find this smooth; I thought it bordered on embarrassing.

Both the writing and direction come via Jameel Khan (shown just below the movie's poster, at top), whose first film this is. (I do not hold grudges; I shall watch his second, as well.) Mr. Khan is dealing here mainly in clichés -- the young man under the thumb of his dad, the oversexed loser, the Hindi and his arranged marriage, etc. -- which he embraces completely and then piles more cliché on top.

The Strip opens this Friday, December 4, in nine major metropolises across the country, with two more hosting the film the following week. Check here for cities, theaters and showtimes. While I always like to encourage my readers to watch a movie on the big screen, imagining myself forking over $11 seems excessive.
Surely the DVD will be here soon.


CriticNYC said...

Oh oh James you seem to have fallen into the trap that this exceptionally laid back piece of droll humor sets for the overworked hustler it both sends up and relieves from duty in the manner of all good slacker movies, except that this one doesn't riff on laziness so much as earnestness. Slow down to the pace it sets and you'll not think it drab and fitful so much as charmingly liberating, especially with your three movie a day schedule. It surely isn't a Slammin Salmon but in its way it says much the same thing with patient subtlety and a sweet faith in the moment even if that moment is pure cliche, because its underlying theme is affectionate tolerance for the vanity of human wishes on the workaday minimall level. It's really a gentle riff on the glass half full philosophy, replete with the droll wisdom of laughing at the way life thwarts grandiosity instead of seeing it as full of tragic failure. Unfortunately it gets off on the wrong foot with the extended scenes of absolutely nothing going on in the shop misplaced at the very start, where they mislead the audience and especially the busy critic into overbalancing into boredom. They should have set things up with a small emotional bang of some kind and then run that sequence. So in a way your response which is shared by the Times and others is partly the fault of that editing, I would think.

TrustMovies said...

Interesting take, CriticNYC, and I can see what you mean. But, as you say, the set-up is wrong. And it is so wrong, and goes on for so long, that, for me, that the movie never really recovers. But the responses of those of us who did not like the film are not the fault of the movie's editing but of its conception. That small emotional bang you mention might very well have set something better in motion, but I think it would have been part and parcel of a different concept and movie.