aGLIFF 2011 (Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival)
By Don Simpson | September 11, 2011
Director: Ash Christian
Writer: Ash Christian
Starring: Ryan Boggus, Heather Matarazzo, Jennifer Coolidge, Deborah Theaker, Leslie Jordan, Charles Solomon Jr., Peter S. Williams, John D. Montoya
Mangus Spedgwick’s (Ryan Boggus) destiny is to be Jesus…in his fictional hometown of Rivercity’s annual production of Jesus Christ Spectacular, that is. It is a long-standing family tradition for the Spedgwick males to play the leading role in Jesus Christ Spectacular — the poor man’s version of Jesus Christ Superstar — and Mangus appears to be a shoe-in to keep that tradition alive.
A freak accident renders Mangus handicapped — or handicapable — and the people of Rivercity vote against having a cripple perform in the role of Jesus. All the while, Mangus’ father (Charles Solomon Jr.) is called to duty in Iraq and Mangus’ evil stepmother (Deborah Theaker) sends Mangus to live with his mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and half-sister (Heather Matarazzo) in their trailer park home.
Other than Mangus’ half-sister coming out as a lesbian, writer-director Ash Christian’s Mangus is not necessarily a “queer film” — or a film with any message or agenda, for that matter. However, Mangus is obviously from a very queer perspective. Everything about Mangus screams queer, from the brightly colored production design (Ryan M. Smith) to the cartoonish performances to the musical production that the plot revolves around.
I did not find the onslaught of handicap jokes to be very funny; otherwise, Mangus is supremely quirky and ridiculous…in a good way. The film’s sense of humor is certainly off-kilter and might be a bit too sparkly of a pill for some to swallow, but I recommend hanging in there until Jennifer Coolidge and Heather Matarazzo’s characters are introduced because that is when Mangus really hits its stride. Not that Ryan Boggus is not fantastic as Mangus — because he truly is — but he is at his best when playing off Coolidge and Matarazzo. Noteworthy cameos by Leslie Jordan, John Waters and a few others really add a dash more zaniness to the overall insanity.