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Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit?
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by Jay Seaver

"Can't blag its way out of being a mess."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: There's the potential in "Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit?" for a movie which one can feel strongly about. It may be a black comedy, an earnest melodrama, or a twisty, off-kilter bit of science fiction. Unfortunately, writer/director Mark Jeavons doesn't seem to know which one of them he wants to make, so he tries to stick pieces of all of them in, but they don't fit together well. The most memorable bits, unfortunately, tend to be the least well-handled.

Peter Blagmore (Rob Leethem) inherited his father's wedding-video business, but from what the audience sees of him at work, he really shouldn't be part of a day people will remember forever. His brother Eugene (Andy Pandini) and their co-worker Clive (Adam Rickitt) are not a lot of help, and his behavior finally leads to his ex-wife Tracy (Gabrielle Amies) kicking him out of the house after they've been divorced for six years. It looks like Pete's hitting rock bottom, at least until a series encounters with gangsters, alien abductions, and dimensional portals in refrigerators make things take a turn for the weird.

Many of the elements in Pete Blaggit aren't bad, but it's difficult to overstate how much trouble Jeavons has combining them. The comedy is frequently on the sillly side, with Pete's hair, wardrobe, and video equipment a couple decades out of date, most characters played in the broadest way possible, and the special effects for the sci-fi elements meant to be deliberately campy. The filmmaker wants the characters to nuanced and tragic, though, so there will be frequent moments when the movie slows down, some color drains from the image, and voice-over narration will comment on the flashbacks to how these characters got to this place in their lives. Jeavons doesn't have the killer instinct to make it work, though - the revelations aren't blindsiding, suddenly making the audience reconsider what they think of the characters, and the flashbacks and narration are played too straight to work as self-aware satire of attempts to build up the characters in this sort of comedy. Some movies can work these contradictions to make the audience unsure what they should feel; this one makes it hard to feel anything.

Other parts of the script just feel lazy, especially the science-fictional elements. This is yet another indie sci-fi movie where the fantastical bits only make sense if they are the product of a character's messed-up mind because the details don't quite fit together, but the filmmaker not only doesn't do anything to show that this is even potentially the case, but throws in bits that don't make sense unless it is all literally happening. The actual events of the movie, whether science-fictional or conventional, are a mess of arbitrary rules and events, cheap effects, and writing that can't tell the difference between ambiguity and contradiction. Even if you treat fantasy as a get-out-of-logic-free card, it's sloppy. There's a moment toward the end where Pete's narration says something fairly definitive about Clive, and rather than summing the character up or showing how skewed Pete's perspective is, all it does is tell us that we don't know a darn thing about this guy who has been hanging around the movie for an hour and a half.

Give the cast a much better script, though, and they probably would have been able to do something with it. Rob Leetham manages to make Pete both a sort of sketch comedy character who is meant to amuse because of his awfulness and a sad, pathetic figure. It's a fairly impressive job of emoting through a ridiculous wig and tacky jacket (though when he's called upon to do something else, it doesn't work out so well). Andy Pandini has a similarly good balance of humor and pathos as the brother, and Gabrielle Amies is quite good as the long-suffering ex-wife. Adam Rickitt is good when actually called on to do something, but that isn't as often as one might like. Both Anthony Baines & Russell Barnett and Carl Coleman & Chrisopher Tajah are good but underused playing characters where each pair only does enough for one.

To give it its due, "Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggitt?" is fairly funny on a regular basis. It's just sloppy, and its desire to be taken seriously undermines most chances it has of making that work as entertaining anarchy.

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originally posted: 02/17/12 23:38:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 26-Mar-2012

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Directed by
  Mark Jeavons

Written by
  Mark Jeavons

Cast
  Rob Leetham
  Gabrielle Amies
  Adam Rickitt
  Andy Pandini



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