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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

JACK BROWN GENIUS -- movie review by porfle

Do you miss the good old days when Yahoo Serious was a cinematic force to be reckoned with? Then you may enjoy JACK BROWN, GENIUS, a 1994 comedy from New Zealand, because it plays as though producer Peter Jackson, director Tony Hiles, and co-writer Fran Walsh had him in mind for the title role when they penned the script for Wingnut Films.

The farcical nature of the story emerges during the prologue, with a 10th century English monk named Elmer (Stuart Devenie) jumping off a cliff to test his newly-invented wings only to fall to his death and be wrongly banished to Purgatory for committing "suicide." Nearly 1000 years later, but only days before Elmer is to be consigned to Hell for all time, he enters the brain of a struggling inventor named Jack Brown (Timothy Balme, BRAINDEAD) and nags him into trying to succeed where he failed, thus convincing God that Elmer didn't really intend to commit suicide after all. (Wait--isn't God supposed to be omniscient? Oh, never mind.)

I've seen "Scooby-Doo" episodes that made more sense, but this movie just blithely sails along as though the story weren't completely out to lunch. Like a weird medieval variation of INNERSPACE (with a dash of HUDSON HAWK thrown in, God help us), we see Elmer bopping around inside Jack's brain and poking at his nerves and blood vessels to get attention whenever Jack starts to work on his current project (hydraulic leaping shoes) for his demanding boss (Edward Campbell). "Thou canst not silence me, Jack! Thy brainpan is my permanent place of abode!" Elmer insists.

After spending some time in a "Regional Centre for the Deeply Disturbed", Jack actually does invent a working pair of wings, only to have the power source stolen by The Boss and his evil dominatrix girlfriend, Sylvia (Lisa Chappell), to sell to an Asian businessman. Meanwhile, Jack's best friend Dennis (Marton Csokas, LORD OF THE RINGS, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY), who runs a mobile hot dog stand, is seduced into helping Sylvia while his bride-to-be Eileen (Nicola Murphy) starts to fall for Jack, whom she thinks is crazy. Okay, where did I lose you?

JACK BROWN GENIUS features some nicely garish set design and is directed like a cartoon, full of hyperkinetic action and ridiculous plot developments that just barrel along like a circus wagon with no brakes. Some potentially funny situations are set up and then just sailed through without any elaboration--this movie could've been twice as funny if the writers had just taken the time to insert some comedy into the comedy scenes. This is especially true during Jack's stay in the nuthouse, although the part where he tries to silence Elmer by subjecting himself to shock treatment is nicely done.

Then again, the movie sometimes manages to pull off some almost dazzling sequences out of the blue. Angry with Jack for messing up their leaping-shoes deal with the Asians, The Boss takes after him in a car with the intent of running him down. This leads to some incredible stunt/effects scenes involving a car and two speeding trains as Jack leaps for his life. Another chase in a garbage dump has Jack and Eileen being pursued by a livid Sylvia in a demolition-derby style smash-up with an exhilarating finale. And the climactic flying effects are well-done.

I enjoyed some of the dialogue, such as this simple exchange:

JACK: "There's a monk in my head, Eileen."
EILEEN: "Pardon?"

Timothy Balme is appropriately cartoonlike in the title role, a perplexed wacky-inventor type who depends on his imagination to get him out of a scrape. Nicola Murphy is likable in her debut as Eileen, although her sudden infatuation with Jack, who throws up on her shoes and seems insane enough for her to have him committed to an asylum, seems a bit of a stretch. As The Boss, Edward Campbell has a gruff Vinnie Jones-like thing going. Marton Csokas, who would go on to have quite a successful career, does what he can with the role of Dennis, which is just all over the map.

Likewise, Stuart Devenie makes the best of his wacky monk character, Elmer, which consists mainly of being irritating and bouncing around inside a big rubber brain. My favorite supporting character has to be Lisa Chappell as bad girl Sylvia, for reasons which I will leave to your conjecture. She has the one graphic gore scene in the film, but, unfortunately, neither of the two bare behinds on display belong to her. (You don't wanna know who they do belong to.)

I watched a barebones screener so I can only say that the final DVD extras should include a stills gallery. The 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen image and 2.0 Dolby Digital audio are good. The film has a nice pop music score and I especially liked the song "Not an Ordinary Life" by the Brainchilds.

JACK BROWN GENIUS gets by on a certain amount of inventiveness, some appealing actors, and lots of energy--which adds up to a decent amount of fun. It isn't one of the best comedies ever made, but it's one of the best comedies that Yahoo Serious never made.

Buy it at

1 comment:

stream movies said...

I'm truly happy that our (New Zealand) movie industry was and still contribute to such good movies