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Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Gregory Popovich is (a) an animal lover, and (b) one of the best juggler/acrobat/street performers I've ever seen. And his movie, POPOVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WEST (2014) is such a kindhearted, well-meaning little doo-dad that I don't have the heart to say anything negative about it, so I'm only going to say nice things.  (Pretty much.)

Popovich plays a lovable panhandler on the dusty backstreets of Las Vegas, eking out a living by performing with his beloved kitty cat and doggy co-stars while competing for the dollars of passersby with some meanies such as Space Mime (co-writer/director Mike Thompson)--the only mime bully I've ever seen anywhere--and his dorky samurai sword-wielding cohorts, who steal his hard-earned cash at the point of a switchblade. 

Back home in the junkyard where he lives in a derelict trailer with several more strays that he cares for, Popovich is served notice by a sympathetic city employee, Candace (Melody Melendez), that he's in violation of one of those busybody city ordinances about having too many pets and is going to have to either get rid of most of them or come up with some serious cash.

(I can identify with that because the same thing happened to me once and it was no fun at all, let me tell you.)

Already we can see that Popovich and the film's writer-directors, Jerry and Mike Thompson, are going for some Chaplinesque pathos here.  Their goal to replicate the old silent film comedies with their star clown acting as a Chaplin or Keaton equivalent is clear from the start as well.  When Popovich stumbles his way into a menial job at a theater later on, his bumbling interactions with the various performers and business types have a kind of THE CIRCUS quality to them.  Unfortunately, they also get him thrown out on his ear.

(I won't mention the fact that the documentary-style handheld camerawork and editing don't lend themselves to this kind of comedy very well, or that the music tends to clash with the action.)

A competition amongst fellow street performers for a grand prize is a highlight which gives Popovich his first chance to really show us his stuff, which is considerable--in fact, whenever this incredibly talented individual and his lovable (and amazing) performing pets are given free rein the movie becomes quite wonderful for awhile.

I even have to hand it to Space Mime, his main competitor, who has an act which involves standing in front of a screen with moving images projected around him with which he interacts in thoroughly impressive fashion.  As Steve Martin used to say, "Hey...this guy's good."  (But his samurai sword-wielding cohorts, not so much.  Chopping fruit in half in mid-air gets old real quick.) 

In other scenes, Popovich must contend with his crabby neighbor whose morning newspaper tends to get chewed up by the clown's various canine associates.  In fact, he's the one who sics the law on our lovable hero.  But wouldn't you know it--both that guy and our old nemesis Space Mime turn out to be not so bad by the end.  This movie just doesn't have the heart to give the bad guys their comeuppance, turning them into good guys instead.  That's kind of nice, as it turns out.

And back at that theater, Antonio Fargas, who used to play "Huggy Bear" on "Starsky and Hutch" way back in the 70s, discovers that Popovich's comic bumbling during his latest theatrical production was actually the hit of the show and tries to get him back.  How this all turns out, with the added excitement of a big fire in which Popovich and his pets must come to the rescue of Huggy Bear--I mean, Antonio--and a gaggle of caged animals, leads to the heartwarming finale.

And heartwarming it is.  Enough, in fact, to make up for any deficiencies this film may have had up until then.  Good spirits prevail as Popovich and his performing animals put on their most impressive show yet, and I even found myself getting a little misty-eyed there for a minute.  So put aside your reservations and watch POPOVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WEST the way a kid would watch it, and you might find yourself enjoying it the way a kid would.

(P.S. A closing credits footnote informs us that all the animals in the film were rescued from shelters and that only positive training is used by Popovich, who owns them all himself, which gave me even more nice feels toward the movie.  Now excuse me while I wipe this speck of dust out of my eye.) 

Buy it at

Tech Specs
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: 1:85:1 HD
Genre: Comedy
Sound: Surround
Country: USA
Language: English


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