This movie is strange and hard to explain since so much of the humor comes from the situational comedy, much like an explanation of “Arrested Development” made no sense to friends in 2006, as you simply repeated “No, it’s so funny” and hoped for the best. While it’s not anywhere near the level of “Arrested Development,” it’s still delightfully fun to watch.
Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) has been tortured and filmed his whole life by his older brother, a wild drug addict named Bruce (Chris O’Dowd), but when Bruce turns his life around, their mom (Nora Dunn) asks Frank to come back home and forgive Bruce. While Bruce may have kicked his drug addiction, he’s still got the movie-making bug and wants to work with an aging TV star (Chris Noth) he met in rehab, continuing to film Frank at very private moments, including a failed sex act with a beautiful young stranger (Lizzy Caplan). When the non-sex tape falls into the wrong hands, Frank and Bruce must do their best to get it back before too many people see it.
O’Dowd and Hunnam can’t really keep their accents on straight, though it’s more of a struggle for the Irish O’Dowd than for Hunnam, and it all begins to sound very strange after a while, Irish and British versions of American accents, rumbling out of them. The two men make an easy team to root for, and performance wise, there’s not really a weak link in the bunch. Lizzy Caplan is a lovely supporting figure in the mayhem that is 3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom, though I’m unsure of her role in the greater scheme of things. She plays a young woman whose life is unravelling, but the script lacks some consistency when it comes to its handling of her. Chris Noth as a washed up and psychotic actor is fearless and brazen, and Ron Perlman as a post-op male to female is almost uglier and weirder than Ron Perlman in real life, but ultimately fairly amazing. Even Whitney Cummings, appearing here as Bruce’s editor, escapes my wrath for her terrible TV show “Whitney” and is kind of funny and tolerable. She used to have a pretty bitchin’ shopping blog a few years ago and made some good recommendations on products, so I always try to think of that and not how desperately un-funny she is on her sitcom.
There’s a hearty element and exploration of the concept of Internet superstardom and a light handling of the toll that drug addiction takes on a family, and we are privy to the evidences of destruction and destructive tendencies throughout. Frankie is continually abused and let down by his family, and has vowed to stay away from them, but finds himself drawn back in, over and over. There’s a few nice elements such as hand-written cards informing us as to various scene changes, but overall the technical elements are nothing monumental, apart from the to-die-for set (and life) that is Frankie in Death Valley living in his Airstream trailer working as a novelist. How does he have the money? Where does he get his groceries?
Fans of the strange and bizarre will undoubtedly love this one, though it lacks the mental staying power of other more memorable and endlessly quotable films. The film is lacking some essential element which is almost entirely impossible to name, some larger binding agent that effortlessly elevates the mundane, profane and hilarious into a greater work, something that everyone simply must see. In fact it’s hard to even think of a problem with it other than it will hit some people right in their funny bone and other people will be entirely unable to understand what’s funny about it, but neither of them will think about it after leaving the theater.
At best, this is a genuinely funny movie that is simply hard to describe. At worst, it’s a unique and wild vision from emerging director and writer Jordan Roberts (“Around the Bend”), and while it’s not quite fully gestated or comprehendible, it takes chances and should be seen. A work of art it ain’t, but a strong and unique effort none the less.
Since 3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom is available on demand and through iTunes, you should probably rent it, it’s like $6.99.
(This one’s an R, and a hard R at that. Swearing, what some people probably consider vulgarity, sex, drug references and more. Proceed with caution when showing to first dates, parents, etc.)