Saturday, September 16, 2017

Michael Cross' SECOND NATURE provides some fairy-tale gender-bending that's frisky fun

Its always a pleasure to receive, out of the blue, a new indie movie of which one has never heard (likewise its filmmaker and cast) but that turns out to offer enough surprise and fun to make the watch worthwhile. So it is with SECOND NATURE, the very good-natured, charming, silly little movie that tackles the subject of a sudden switch of genders in an amusing and interesting manner.

We've seen enough "magical" body-switching movies by now that another one, even if it's done gender-wise, might not impress. But filmmaker Michael Cross (shown below) has the better idea to leave his two lead antagonists alone, while flipping the entire environment around them.

This "flip" makes his movie not only a nice surprise but an increasingly funny one, too, as we discover a Hooters-type restaurant switched to "Peckers," in which the scantily-clad waiters are ogled and their "packages" squeezed by the female diners to a world in which men must protest their right to equal pay, paternity leave, and especially their "choice" to get a vasectomy.

Sure, this is all kind of obvious and by the book, and some of the jokes land more deftly than others. Yet by and large, most of this works, and the movie's basic idea smartly carries the day.

Mr. Cross is helped considerably by the talent and charm of his able cast, in particular its two leading actors --- Collette Wolfe and Sam Huntington (shown above, left and right, respectively) -- who play small-town antagonists both running for the office of mayor.

Their game performances and their ability to fill out their characters with traits both good and bad (well, he's mostly the entitled bad guy, but Mr. Huntington manages this with enough humor to make it work) help the movie reach its foregone conclusion with wit and charm.

The plot revolves around the Wolfe's characters grandmother (Carolyn Cox, above, left) and a certain powerful mirror she has buried. Once unleashed, that power must be curtailed within a certain time frame or it will remain in place forever.

Yes, this is fairy-tale stuff, but director and co-writer Cross has paced his film well enough (and made it short enough: 80 minutes) that it doesn't drag and we're smiling and sometimes outright laughing along the way. Special effects are minor but effective, and supporting performances range from OK to just fine.

Overall, Second Nature should provide enough fun for those who discover it to make that discovery worthwhile. It arrives on VOD this coming Tuesday, September 19, on most major platforms, while extending its theatrical run in Seattle (the movie takes place and was made in Washington State) at the Ark Lodge Cinemas through September 21. Click here to find out more about how and where to see it.

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