01/06/2012. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper
Somewhere in the same category of film as Being John Malkovich is Normal, a new comedy with fantasy elements. Normal is the creation of fledgling writer/director Nicholas P. Richards. While there are plenty of fantasy ideas to build a strong comedy around, Richards does not give us characters we care much about. Too many ideas go nowhere.
Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Phin (played by Geno Rathbone) lent his car to the wrong person and never got it back. Now he needs his transportation. Phin barely earns enough to eat from his job of dressing as a gorilla and acting as the mascot in his uncle's used car lot. His job is to dance excitedly when he hears the proposed price of a car. (Hey, it's better than nothing. Somebody has to wear the gorilla suits.)
Phin gets an offer of a one-time job. He will be paid $2500 to act as courier to deliver a mysterious package. The job starts badly when he breaks the zipper on the gorilla suit and has to wear it from the neck down all day on his courier job. Things go from bad to worse when the car he borrows breaks down. From there one bad break follows another and soon Phin finds himself in a sort of parallel universe he did not even know existed.
Writer/director Nicholas P. Richards has a reasonably deft hand at dialog, but is not so deft at plotting. There are some interesting ideas in the screenplay, but most seem to be just throwaways that do little to enhance the minimal plot. References to Scrabble seem to be dropped into the film as a repeating gag with no apparent payoff. The film has an acceptable first act, a really interesting second act, but then everything that has been gained is lost on a slight and minimal third act. Most of the ideas seem to be just stretching the film to feature length rather than changing the main line of the story. Normal seems to be reaching to be another Being John Malkovich, but needed to do more with its fantasy premises.
Geno Rathbone as the main character has the least screen presence of any actor in the film. Emmi Chen as a travelling companion has the appearance of a young Shirley MacLaine. But when Rathbone shares the screen with a radiant Erin Breen he almost seems to disappear from view.
Nicholas P. Richards who wrote and directed Normal began his career in music but switched to video and filmmaking in general. This is his first film directing, though he wrote and acted in the science fiction film Green Eyes For Anastice. Here he simply did not give us compelling enough reason to care about his characters and what trials they have. When the biggest mystery of the film is answered, the result is just not very exciting. Even the title has little to do with the plot. I rate Normal a high 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. I could easily believe that better things will come from Richards, but he is not there yet.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper
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