MachotaildropReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/28/10 16:01:03
SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2010: It seems like a ridiculous thing to say, after having seen the movie, but I initially thought "Machotaildrop" was a documentary. Skim the description, and the bits about a company with a colorful head recruiting skateboarders looking to go pro to train together doesn't seem out of the realm of the possible, especially if one is relatively ignorant of X-Game sports. Even given how little I know about that world, though, I strongly suspect that a reality show starting from the same premise wouldn't be quite this weird.There real world likely has teens who love skateboarding as much as Walter Rhum (Anthony Amedori), who practices non-stop so that he'll be good enough to submit a video to the Machotaildrop skateboard company; few hang out at a skateboard-themed bakery. When he finally does make the grade, he's bought to Machotaildrop's headquarters, where he meets the company's eccentric founder, The Baron (James Faulkner), and is able to live and train with other boarders on the rise, including his hero, Blair Stanley (Rick McCrank). He also meets Sophie (Vanessa Guide), a girl who works in the company's archives, and knows some of its secrets. But will that be enough when the Manwolves attack?
Well, not actual Manwolves; a gang that goes by that name which skates in an abandoned amusement park which the Baron intends to level and rebuild as the greatest skateboarding-based activity center ever. It's that kind of movie, the sort where you can replace "headquarters" in the preceding paragraph with "secret underground lair" and perhaps be a little more accurate. Co-writers and directors Corey Adams and Alex Craig have built a world full of low-budget quirk; the ubiquitous cassettes, 8-bit video games, and fashions probably place it somewhere in the late 1980s or early 1990s, although they avoid any references that could specifically date the movie. Besides, it's not the real world at all - I don't remember TV series where skateboarders would host expeditions to find lost skate parks, for instance.
Adams and Craig make that variety of low-key comedy work, although it's a sort of dry and punchline-less sort of humor. For instance, the Manwolves, aside from their ranting leader (John Mackey), look like refugees from the various gangs in The Warriors, with masks and helmets and stuff. One of them, always in the background, wears a chef's hat. For some reason, the chef's hat made me giggle every time I saw it, even though there weren't any actual jokes playing off the guy in a chef's hat. Sometimes, that's enough, and it's better than Adams and Craig shoving the absurdity in the audience's collective face and saying "look, this is nutty! laugh!"
That does kind of stick star Anthony Amedori in the sort of oddball comedy no-man's-land, though. He can't visibly react to the strange things around him, because it's presumably just the way his world is, and it keeps him from developing a very strong personality of his own. He does the kind-of-dim-but-well-meaning thing ably enough that it's not a complete mystery what the smart and pretty Sophie sees in him. She's pretty likable, too, but doesn't have the chance to just go for strange the way the other members of the cast do: James Faulkner, Lukacs Bicskey, John Mackey, and John Rado are playing some weird characters, and though they've only got a quirk or two apiece to work with, but they do make them sing. Professional skateboarder Rick McCrank is also sneaky-funny as Machotaildrop's current star with the classic combination of cluelessness and self-certainty.
One thing that kind of surprises me is that there's not more actual skateboarding in the movie. Granted, it was the late show and there's a good chance that I wouldn't be able to tell great boarding from decent boarding, but it seems like McCrank is just there for a gag about him screwing up something simple, which isn't nearly as funny if you don't recognize the guy, and if you do, you'll probably like to see some of the good stuff, right? This isn't crippling, just that it's a bit odd to build so much of the setting around something but make it relatively irrelevant. That just leaves mild dry humor.That's cool, I like the dry humor. "Machotaildrop" actually manages to be a far funnier movie than the one I had initially imagined; it just could have been something special if it had some more moves to go with its very agreeable goofiness.
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