AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | November 1, 2010
Director: Doug Manley
Writer: Doug Manley
Starring: Doug Manley, Kevin M. Brennan, Rebecca West, Scott Whitney
Kevin (Kevin Brennan) and Doug (Doug Manley) are two of the hottest stars in Hollywood. Their sit-com is enjoying near infinite success and they have just signed a deal to star in a science fiction film. To research their upcoming roles, they join up with a space shuttle crew and are soon launched into space. The next thing Kevin and Doug know, they are stranded on a strange planet…or world…or planet world. Armed with witty dialogue and outrageous outfits, Kevin and Doug must struggle to survive in this foreboding place.
To call the plot and acting imbecilic would probably sound like a bad thing, but it definitely works for this film. Besides, to call a film titled Modern Imbecile’s Planet World imbecilic would just be…well…imbecilic. By way of the film’s title, writer-director Doug Manley sends ample warning that this film might just insult one’s intelligence.
What elevates Modern Imbecile’s Planet World beyond mere stupidity are the cleverly referential sight gags and Manley and Brennan’s uncanny knack for wordplay. Beginning with a sly reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Manley does not shy away from borrowing heavily from science fiction landmarks (some people in the 2010 Austin Film Festival audience seemed confused about whether Manley intended this to be in homage to or mockery of the films it was referencing — Manley insists that it was meant as an homage). Considering Manley’s low budget (IMDB lists the budget at $25,000), he pulls off all of the visual references quite well.
Completely absurd and ridiculous, films like Modern Imbecile’s Planet World can be a real challenge for me to review. This particular sub-genre of comedy walks a fine line for me. Absurdism is probably my favorite form of comedy (Monty Python, Mr. Show, and The Mighty Boosh) but I am disappointed by the genre much more often than not. I also feel like absurdism works best in short doses; it seems very difficult to keep the absurdities flowing long enough for a feature-length film. (Modern Imbecile’s Planet World clocks in at approximately 70 minutes.)
Modern Imbecile’s Planet World did not disappoint me, but I do feel like it’s narrative could have been tightened up a little bit more. It probably would have made a much stronger 30-minute sketch. More than anything, the question I keep asking myself is: was Modern Imbecile’s Planet World so bad it is good or so bad it is horrible? Admittedly, I laughed a lot…so…it is certainly not horrible. I am just not impressed enough to say that it is really good.