AFI Fest 2013
By Don Simpson | November 12, 2013
Director: Todd Sklar
Writers: Todd Sklar, Alex Rennie
Starring: James Pumphrey, Alex Rennie, Christopher Meloni, Laura Ramsey, Brett Gelman, Keeley Hazell, Zahn McClarnon, Dominic Dierkes, D.C. Pierson, Henry Zebrowski, Jon Gabrus, Kerry Barker
Cleverly expanding upon the narrative set-up from his short film ’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card, Todd Sklar takes the story of two hapless brothers brought together by their father’s funeral and shows us the aftermath. Awful Nice essentially begins with a replay of ’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card, as Jim (James Pumphrey) tracks his brother Dave (Alex Rennie) and bribes him into returning to Minnesota for their father’s funeral. It quickly becomes apparent why these two siblings have grown so far apart. They do not like each other — you might even say that they detest each other. Fist fights and wrestling matches are inevitable, but after their father’s funeral they still decide to go on a road trip together to Branson, MO. Why? Well, they plan on selling their family’s summer home in order to cash in on their inheritance.
When they arrive in Branson, they discover their family’s home in an extreme state of disrepair. With no cash to invest in the cleanup and repairs that are necessary before putting the house on the market, Dave convinces Jim that they should work on the house themselves. It is overtly apparent that this is a horrible idea, but Jim reluctantly agrees in order to have more brotherly bonding time with his estranged sibling. It is not long before the drunken debauchery begins and the brothers become helplessly entangled with the Russian mob…among other things.
Awful Nice is saturated with irreverently ridiculous guy humor, but Sklar always seems to find ways to keep the film’s pathos alive and flowing. The comedy in this odd-couple-road-movie-comedy is so extremely physical that I can only assume that James Pumphrey and Alex Rennie were pretty battered and bruised after this shoot; but the authenticity of the violence is not just for laughs, it also provides the film’s emotional core. If Awful Nice was made in Hollywood, the brutality would be so laughably implausible that it would distance us from the characters; but Sklar drags us right into the middle of Jim and Dave’s universe, and allows us to suffer the crushing blows alongside them.