In my third review of Virginia Film Festival screenings, I’m faced with a reprise of sorts: Not That Funny is what I Am Not a Hipster is titularly: sort of a misnomer. Well, yes, it tends to be what Thursday’s delightfully-indie film could not accomplish and carries a plot that does hold close to the promise its title strings up in lights. But, it has its chuckle-catalyzing moments. Although, Not That Funny seems to have a cast cursed with an ironic case of arrested development. It neither breaks new ground nor induces vomit, and those wishing that Tony Hale would return to his typecasted role as the awkward, coddled kid brother will leave NTF with a bitter taste of disappointment.
But let’s remember: the movie isn’t advertised as Arrested Development: Solo Round, Hale’s glorious return-to-form as Fox’s poster child for the results of terrible parenting. It’s presented as an pensive and unique dramedy, which ironically never strays from the stale formula that Hollywood keeps slopping onto movie screens. Despite its (current) 3.7 on IMDB, the flick does have some merits, even if it’s as predictable as your standard Nicholas Sparks blah-a-thon.
Stefan (Hale) cares for the elderly Toogie (K Callan) and doubles as her astute financial adviser. His best friend, Kevork (John Kapelos) pesters Stefan about his apparent loneliness, to which he simply replies: “I’m alone, I’m not lonely.” However, in true dramedy fashion, a girl flips his ideology like lackluster McDonald’s hotcakes: the standard troubled granddaughter Hayley (Brigid Brannagh). She begrudgingly toils under pretentious sleazebag Finneas Patrick O’Neill (Timothy V. Murphy), who prides himself on being the most unpleasant humanitarian in the history of humanitarianism.
Let’s set the record straight: Stefan is indeed not that funny, so he flocks to the Internet to fuel his comedic fire. What he sets his sights on is the emulation of female fan favorite Norm Getz (Nick Thune), whose claim to fame is being ruder and cruder than your average ExxonMobil gas. After priming his humor, the unfunny man test-drives it and misfires. Seeking Getz out after trailing the comedian back to his humble abode, Stefan discovers that he’s more himself as a serious man than a hilarious one. Cue the Full House episodic score and let’s call it a night.
But wait! There’s more! Not that much more, though. The action moves at such a glacial pace that most of the quips are hidden behind quizzical music choices (I recall hearing an industrial-dance tune immediately followed by a Sarah McLachlan clone…) and Hale’s signature facial expressions. The performances are hit-and-miss, and the emotive conclusion that tries its best to remain unequivocally original is your standard 100-minute Lifetime special closer.
However, it’d be a crime to discount the fact that Not That Funny does bring to mind this important reminder: this movie delivers, for the most part, what it intends to. Phrases are sometimes followed by smatterings of chuckles, others welcomed by embarrassing silence. But isn’t that the point?
-James Cassar. 2/5 stars.