Monday, 24 September 2012

Movie Review: Roller Town

Perhaps it's appropriate that my Triumphant Return to this blog after being on a Howard Hughes-like lockdown in my apartment for my first comprehensive exam is to review Nova Scotian comedy troupe Picnicface's Roller Town. Much like my return to the outside world after four hours of writing about literary theory, my exit from the theatre after seeing Roller Town was characterized by feeling a bit sheepish and kind of in need of some clarification of what exactly just happened.

Picnicface's Roller Town is a cheerful, absurdist, shameless parody of something essentially parodic in itself: roller disco. The film tells the story of Leo, the orphaned roller disco king of the film's eponymous roller rink. When his beloved Roller Town is threatened into turning into a video game arcade by the gangster who shot his father, Leo sets out to beat the odds and maybe fall in love along the way. Or maybe the love story starts first. I honestly can't remember and frankly I don't have to. If I remember the glitter and the repeated joke about having sex with corn, I've pretty much got this one down.

Punctuated by short, incredibly shiny musical numbers from the fictional disco trio The Boogaloos, Roller Town is bright, cheerful and sometimes really quite funny. A musical interlude called "It's Fuck O'clock" is perhaps the film's shining moment, which tempts me to suggest you look it up on Youtube and decide whether you want to see a film in which that is the apex of its humour. It's entirely possible that you will.

Perhaps unavoidably, the film proceeds unevenly, going from joke to joke: some are clever and some are cheap. The occasional particularly sexualized joke stands out not because it's especially transgressive or shocking, but because the majority of the film has a kind of innocence that  makes some of the humour seem really out of place, even when these instances are funny. It's hard to hold it against the film because it radiates a kind of benevolent self-satisfaction, a bit like that really nice, quiet stoner you knew in high school. You wonder if maybe they know something you don't, but only briefly.

The film is undeniably fun and elevated by two performances in particular, Kayla Lorette as love interest Julia and Pat Thornton as a dimwitted (but notably not the most dimwitted) gangster, Beef. Lorette's Julia is the closest thing the film has to a straight man figure and her occasional confusion with the general wackiness around her seems to be a bone thrown the audience's way. Thornton's Beef threatens to steal the show, with some of the film's better lines and excellent delivery.

Most of the interest I've heard regarding the film has been through derby-related channels, and while there are a lot of rollerskates onscreen, this is not a derby movie. Watching the skater's upright posture and lack of knee pads - both of which are realistic considering the skating style - actually distracted me from getting into the film. But the film can be a fun outing for league members, with the caveat that several of the folks I went with felt our league CEO owed them $11 for her recommendation of the film. This isn't Whip It, but it's fun.

It's difficult to articulate whether I would generally recommend seeing Roller Town or not. I liked it more upon retelling the plot to my partner than I did immediately upon seeing the film itself. It's not a case of being so bad that it's good, because the film has scenes that are legitimately good in the first place, followed by others that don't hit the mark. I think that viewers who enjoy absurd humour, a plot that in no way takes itself seriously and for bonus points, Canadian content, will enjoy Roller Town..

You just might want to be a little drunk.

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