Thursday, June 19, 2008

Otis (2008)

Contrary to the rumors flying around the blog-o-sphere, I do leave my house. Apparently, the United States Postal Service have been ignoring my "Please Deliver on Sundays" e-mails. Because of this, sometimes I don't have Netflix to watch! You'd think that the "4 Out at a Time" plan would be enough but clearly this is not always the case.

The worst is when I end up watching all four Netflix on a Saturday. I drop them in the mailbox fully aware that they won't get picked up for another 36 hours. Come Monday morning, they get picked up, transported to some sort of sorting center reminiscent of Dear God, and then they're off to Netflix (which I assume is some sort of magical land about thirty minutes East of San Jose, CA). Once the Wizard decides I'm worthy enough for more movies, the discs are delivered via magical Narnia-esque wardrobe, and I'm finally able to continue my quest for cinematical knowledge.

On one of these house-leaving expeditions, I made my way to a film festival about 30 minutes West of Netflix. Whitney from Dear Jesus, my faithful companion, accompanied me for a weekend of movie mania. Overall, the festival was a blast, and I plan on flying back from Utah for next year's festivities. But here's where leaving the house loses to not leaving the house. One of the films that I had been most looking forward to was M.I.A. As it turned out, Whitney and I would have to wait until the film was RELEASED ON DVD before we could see it. They expected me just to stay home and wait? Well, that's what I did. Three months later, the DVD has arrived! The film is Otis.

Now, before you get too excited, Otis is not a spin-off of Masanori Hata's insanely delightful animal buddy film The Adventures of Milo and Otis. Oh, I wish it was too. We're just going to have to deal with what we've got. Instead of a cuddly kitten searching for his precious puppy pal, we have a homicidal halfbreed who abducts teenage girls to reenact his prom. Sorry.

Here's the trailer. I don't know if it truly captures the comedic aspects of the film or the scary aspects either. The editor and I seem to have had the same difficulties with Otis. It's definitely scary, or at the very least, creepy. But it's really funny at the same time. We've all seen films that try for both, usually failing at one or the other. Otis succeeds.

The cast is incredible. Illeana Douglas and Daniel Stern play the parents who take law into their own hands. VIGILANTE JUSTICE! Douglas, as usual, stands out, always giving the movie she's in a little something extra special. For those unfamiliar with her, go rent: "Action" (the entire series), Ghost World, and Grace of My Heart. Even her smaller parts are memorable. Keep an eye out for her in Goodfellas.

Not to knock the rest of the cast, but Illeana Douglas outshines her co-stars like Anne Frank in a "Let's Be Quiet" contest. Whoever was in charge of her wardrobe for the VIGILANTE JUSTICE scenes deserves an Oscar. If you weren't too lazy to watch the trailer, I'm talking about the bandanna/goggles combo she sports while delivering the "...cut his fingers and toes off and blend them into a smoothie and make him drink it" line. Muy Classic. There's nothing like a take-charge mother ready to attach jumper cables to the anus of her daughter's kidnapper.

Speaking of this kidnapper, I know what you're all wondering. Is this another one of those movies where a really attractive guy seems normal at first but then turns out to be crazy way later? Is he the sort of handsome devil who you'd never expect to shove cats into ATM machines? Are the kidnapper's victims swept off their feet by such a debonair gentleman and it isn't until later that they realize they've made a mistake? You tell me.

Stepping up to the plate with a relatively small filmography, Boston Christopher, hits it out of the park. Actually, he'd probably get a triple. From Minute One, the beefy, brainsick Otis sends chills up your spine. We all know this guy. He's works a menial job, he wears a lot of high-tech computer gadgets, and he's probably posts on Craigslist's "Casual Encounters" under the name "Master Chieftess." You know you know this guy.

Otis has a sweet set-up. Stained mattress. Heat lamps. Nasty bathtub. Surveillance cameras. The only thing that's missing from this Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs Combo is a Hayden Panettiere-esque cheerleader. Unfortunately, Hayden Panettiere must not have heard her phone ring because her role was filled by Mel Gibson's whiny daughter from What Woman Want.

Ashley Johnson (the voice behind Gretchen in "Recess," the best cartoon since "Doug") does surprisingly well portraying a multi-layered character. Somehow, she refuses to allow her character to become stereotypical.

Jared Kunsnitz plays Reed, Ashley's troublemaker brother. The role doesn't call for much but he definitely isn't the worst part of the movie. Daniel Stern (the skinny crook from Home Alone) plays Ashley's dad. For as much as I loved the voice over work in "Wonder Years" and for as many times as I watched Bushwacked as a kid, it pains me to say that Stern wasn't exquisite in Otis. In fact, his performance made me realize why I hadn't seen him since the eerily prophetic Celtic Pride. Congratulations Boston! Sorry Mr. Stern.

The first hour of the film covers the kidnapping and the escape. Where the film really gets interesting is when the family subscribes to THE FREAKIN' VIGILANTE JUSTICE! How many times do I need to say this? Torture! Electrocution! Hilarity! One moment, I was laughing my ass off. The next moment found my jaw dropped and my vocal chords pushing out the words "holy schnikes!" Did I mentioned I happen to scream out 1995 slang when I get scared?

I don't want to give too much away, not any more than the trailer gives away. Let me just try to convince you to rent Otis using two words: Kevin Pollak. Bet you were expecting some more VIGILANTE JUSTICE! No, I"m talking about Kevin Pollack. That's right, Mr. Usual Suspects, himself. Victor 'Boss Vic Koss' Kosslovich, himself! It turns out, he and Illeana Douglas have a lot in common. While neither of them often have the main roles, they almost always outshine the lucky actors who get to star in their movies. Pollak plays Otis' brother who constantly screams at the touched terrorist to stop eating pizza, get a real job, and clean up the house. Here we find Pollak doing exactly that:

Otis is the cool movie you show your friends. Everything seems to fall into place. The performances work (even Stern's for the most part), the characters are believable while they do unbelievable things, and the cinematography / set / lighting / score / marketing / etc. are all effective. Some people (message board people) have spoken (typed) out against the ending. They're wrong. I'm right. I have a blog, so you have to listen to me. The ending rocks too. It's unexpected but fits in with the rest of the movie really well.

Like I said, Whitney and I had plans to watch Otis at the Cinequest Film Festival but when we arrived, we were informed that it had been picked up by a distributor and that all screenings had been canceled. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think that theatrical screenings would create word-of-mouth which would create higher DVD sales. I'm just a Cinema Studies student, not one of these hifalutin businessmen who cut in line in front of me at Chipotle. Anywho, Otis is out on DVD now, 100% Netflixable. Take a evening off from your busy lives and enjoy a really funny (and scary) film about young girls getting kidnapped and the families who enjoy

And because I love you guys, here's a couple of great songs from a guy who is neither a family-friendly feline nor a portly pervert. Enjoy.

Otis Redding - Pain in My Heart (zShare)
Otis Redding - Stand By Me (zShare)
Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay (zShare)


Taylor said...

Somehow, someway, everyone knew an akward large bald kid from high school. I'm glad to see a director tackle what becomes of them.

Uh-oh, somebody better tell the teenage girls of Aromas to lock their doors and watch out for Lavonne Humphrey. Hmmm, was that too low? No, I just convinced myself that it wasn't. Wait a second, he knows where I live...

elgringo said...

Sadly, we were the awkward, large, high school kids...and we backyard wrestled. :O Yikes.

Kim and Nick Grafton said...

Lol... Scott, you freaking rock. Seriously. BTW, I love Chipotle, and nobody cuts in front of me because I'm a fat girl and they're afraid I'll eat them if they try to. Why to I always seem to latch on to obscure and unimportant references in your blogs to comment about... I'll try to fix that.

Ross Williams said...

Sounds pretty freaking awesome... right up my alley. I'm Netflixing it right now. Thanks for the review!