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'Not That Funny' lives up to its title

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, despite the relatively serious nature of its plot, Not That Funny has its chuckle-inducing moments.

Stefan (Tony Hale) cares for the elderly Toogey (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.” But in true dramedy fashion, a girl flips his ideology like lackluster McDonald’s hotcakes. The stereotypically troubled granddaughter Hayley (Brigid Brannagh) 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. Haley “just wants someone who makes her laugh.”

Let’s set the record straight: Stefan is indeed not that funny, so he flocks to the Internet to fuel his comedic fire. He attempts to emulate 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, discovering 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 questionable 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.

This film seems to have a cast cursed with an ironic case of arrested development. It breaks no new ground, and those wishing that Hale would return to his typecasted role as the awkward, coddled kid brother will leave Not That Funny 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 a pensive dramedy, even though it ironically never strays from the stale formula that Hollywood keeps slopping onto movie screens.

Despite these flaws, the flick’s current 3.8 stars on aggregate website IMDb hint that it does have some merits, even if it’s as predictable as your standard Nicholas Sparks blah-a-thon.

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?


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