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Moving (2002)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 04/10/05 20:19:45

"This is what no budget indie comedies should be."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Sweet sassy molassy, “Moving” is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time. What makes that a more impressive statement than usual is the fact that “Moving” is a truly independent production, one made on a shoestring budget, without the influence of any studio anywhere, by non-professionals who just wanted to have fun and make a movie. It’s another one of those cheapies that has the look of a picture thrown together by your friend who has a digital camera and some nifty editing software.

Don’t get me wrong - this film was made by folks who obviously know what they’re doing; it may seem like an amateurish production at first glance, but give it time. Only a lack of cash kept this one from a glossier feel. Stick through some shaky production values (which are on par with the homemade short films you see on the internet), and you’ll be rewarded with a steady supply of belly laughs and plenty of non-stop smiles.

Written by brothers Jonathan and Matthew Friedman (Jonathan also directed and co-produced), “Moving” is the simple tale of poor Ron Fervent, who comes home one day to discover that somebody stole his house. The whole house. Well, they left the toothbrush.

That’s just the kickoff of an insane road trip that revels in the absurd. Plot points too goofy to describe push Ron on a frantic journey to Atlantic City with his sleazoid best pal John. Along the way, they encounter mobsters, truckers, flea market shoppers, an underground army, a gun-toting redneck, a highly skilled sharpshooter, the mysterious stranger known only as Trenchman, and, of course, some cool-ass chicks.

The whole thing’s a bit too complicated to discuss without giving away some of the best jokes, but the whole thing comes together in a finale that truly pays off. When the truth behind it all is revealed, it’s at times howlingly loopy and amazingly clever. The conclusion drops the belly laughs in favor of an explanation scene that kept me smiling, while at the same time drawing me in with its outlandish (yet delightfully unique) solution. By the time the credits rolled, I was grinning like crazy, and left the film feeling great.

In addition to creating a wonderful puzzle, the Friedmans have also crafted an insane tribute to the nutty. How else can you describe a film that features “holy shirt!” as an expletive. (And no, that’s not a typo.) It’s easy to see the writers tossing in strange moments just to make themselves giggle. With hilariously nonsensical lines (thanks heavens for lines like “I’m steering with pliers!”), “Moving” feels like its script was written during a slap happy all-nighter.

Bringing all this comedy to life is L. Derek Leonidoff as the beleaguered Ron. It’s a great manic performance, hitting all the frenzied notes, coming off a bit like Matthew Perry at his best (without the baggage of having to sit through a crappy Matthew Perry movie). This is a guy who knows how to pull off a wildly comic performance without going over-the-top. Wickedly funny, this is a guy whom I’d like to see more often; hopefully this film will get him plenty of jobs making folks laugh.

His partner in crime is Terry Jernigan as John. Jernigan often overplays his gags, but it’s hard to say if that’s his own doing, or if his character - a smarmy, morally questionable type - demands to be overplayed. Despite a few glitches here and there, he causes plenty of laughs. The two leads make quite a smart comic team.

The rest of the cast is more widely varied, as can be expected in a movie this small. There’s a wide mix of dead-on performances and weaker turns from what I’m guessing are close friends of the Friedmans. (A main credit at the end of the film goes to the acting coach.) Surprisingly, the film is rarely hindered by the lesser moments, as the jokes are so gung-ho that you’ll spend so much time laughing that you won’t mind a few off-track actors.

In fact, the whole film has its share of problems due to its independent roots, but unlike other similarly budgeted films I’ve reviewed, there’s enough talent shining through that any less-than-professional stuff is surely forgivable. Like the best cheap movies, “Moving” breaks out of its budgetary constraints and gets us to care more about the story than the video-y look of the thing.

“Moving” is a fantastic comedy, a clever take on the road movie, and a surprisingly well-made indie flick. Thoroughly rewatchable (I’ve seen it several times now and busted a gut each time), it’s a film that demands to earn the wider audience it (sadly) probably won’t find for quite some time. I highly recommend tracking this down as soon as possible. As far as homemade movies go, this one’s a definite keeper.

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