Over the past five years or so, it seems as if a lot of independent, first time film makers, have been cutting their teeth with films that appear to be artificially created “cult classics”. This fact isn’t necessarily a negative, in fact, over the past fifty years or so, most directors that have become major film makers have done the same thing. When they started out they kept to the kinds of films they grew up with, a lot of it “genre” films. Steven Spielberg, is a good example. His first few films were totally inspired by the films of his youth, at least contextually. JAWS, for example, is a total old fashioned “genre” flick, it just so happens that Steven Spielberg is a really talented guy, and it elevated the material past it’s schlock like potential(For an example of what JAWS could have been, see the Roger Corman produced, PIRANHA flick.). Having said all that, the more modern generation of film makers are making movies that reflect the types of genre fair that they grew up with. It just so happens that a lot of those movies grew into a “cult” status over time. So, the fact that a lot of burgeoning film maker’s out put has the ere of the “cult” movies they grew up with makes sense. This brings me to first feature length film by Brandon and Jason Trost(Known as The Trost Bros.), THE FP. This flick definitely wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve. It’s got the main story beats of ROCKY, the aesthetic disposition of THE WARRIORS, and slang “hip hop” dialogue that almost sounds like they’re speaking in a different language at times. They’ve taken all these disparate elements to make a surprisingly original little flick, and the more movie references you get the more fun you’ll have.
THE FP takes place in what seems like a hipsters paradise of Frazier Park. There are warring gangs, but instead of having shoot outs to settle gang disputes, they play a video game called Beat, Beat, Revelation. BBR is the films approximation of the popular dancing simulator, Dance, Dance, Revolution. This being a low budget production – the budget was around $60,000, according to IMDB – they couldn’t afford the licensing. That’s it really. That’s the premise that the movie hangs itself on, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. The movie is played completely straight. It never winks at the audience, telling you where to laugh. It takes itself as seriously as any “under dog” sports type of story, and in my opinion, that’s what made it work. The premise itself is the joke, and how serious the characters that exist in this universe take everything. It gives it an edge over other films in the “parody” genre. In most “parody” films the references to what it’s parodying are usually really obvious and direct. Almost, to the point of distraction, and usually only funny in context to what it’s poking fun at. THE FP gets around this by only vaguely referencing the movies that inspired it. There’s no, “Look! See! We’re doing a bit from a scene in ROCKY! Isn’t that hilarious!?”, type of stuff. Sure, the elements are there but if you don’t get the reference it’s not that big of a deal. The humor is not predicated by understanding the “homages”. Another really well realized aspect is the dialogue. For me, this movie will live and die by how funny you find the dialogue. Just like everything else in the movie, the lines are spoken with complete sincerity, and with zero ironic inflection. Are the performances a little “hammy” and over the top? Yes, they are, but it’s done in such a way that we are never directed at what to laugh at. I appreciated that, because most ridiculous comedies all but have a laugh track to tell us where the jokes are. There aren’t really any jokes in THE FP, it’s more about how information is communicated through the “hip hop” slang. The way the characters speak to one another can make even the most mundane things seem funny.
The things that make this movie enjoyable are also the things that some of the more negative aspects come from. It’s a movie that’s built on movie cliches, and while that is humorous it also is what holds it back. At no time in this movie are really compelled by what is going on. It follows the “under dog” type of story so slavishly that it never really engages or surprises us. We know exactly what is going to happen at all times. Also, the fact the film is really paper thin, and has zero depth doesn’t really help it. The story and characters are paper thin, and even at a meager 84 minutes the movie some times has trouble staying afloat. There’s enough going on to keep you watching, but just barely. The movie relies too heavily on it’s silly premise, and would probably be better suited to a 30 minute short rather than a full length feature.
THE FP is not a movie for everyone. Actually, I suspect that some people will down right hate it. I’m not one of those people, and I feel that the flick has enough going on to at least give a rent. It’s got a lot of problems, and rest on it’s laurels way too much, but it’s an impressive first outing for The Trost Bros., and definitely has me interested in what they’ll be doing in the future. If your looking for some silly, melodramatic, straight faced parody ridiculousness, then there are worse ways you could spend 84 minutes. Like, watching anything Adam Sandler has done since THE WEDDING SINGER. So say we all!