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Ulises [Celluloid 02.20.08] movie review scifi comedy

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Sean Plemmons
Writer: Jeff Hansen/John Pickle/Sean Plemmons/James Ross
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ulises Silva (via VeryTragicalMirth)
Rating: 7 out of 10

For all of you who’ve waited for a movie best-described as The Outer Limits meets Cletus The Slack-jawed Yokel (of The Simpsons fame) wait no more! And if you think I’m being facetious, you’re only half right! The Importance of Being Russell by Paradox Productions and Pickle TV is, well…The Outer Limits meets Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel, for better or worse. An incongruous but ultimately amusing mix of low-tech sci-fi, potty jokes (because, as the lead character explains, “taking a dump is universally funny”), and redneck humor, The Importance of Being Russell demonstrates that, yes, you can make an entertaining sci-fi movie about a redneck inventor, citified minions, and a time machine telephone that, if used improperly, could, you know, make your molecules break up.

The story centers around Russell Hawker (John Pickle), a redneck with a thing for inventing things in a shed outside his trailer. Among his inventions: a ‘tool’ (kind of like a Swiss Army Knife…but with…tools), a personal taco-eating hands-free machine, and the world’s first shotgun silencer (a pillow duct-taped to the shotgun’s muzzle). Oh, and he’s also working on something else: a time machine telephone which, once completed, will let him place calls to the future—to find out what the next great invention is going to be. Poor Russell, though. Not only is he in a loveless marriage with a harpy of a wife, Sissy (Jenny Lynn), it seems some big company, Cranium Concepts (kind of like The Home Shopping Network From Hell), always manages to release similar inventions just ahead of his. Yes, even a shotgun silencer. Coincidence? Or is it something else?

Well, one thing leads to another, and Russell, along with his dim-witted partners, Harlen (Wade Long) and Jamon (Justin Birman), decide to go to Big City (the local metropolitan center) to find the last part for the time machine phone. Before you know it, the trio of goofballs are trapped in Vandemeer Manor, home of Patricia Vandemeer, the CEO of Big City Enterprises, who reveals a dastardly plot. See, she’s got this green liquid (scientifically referred to by Russell and company as that ‘green needle [expletive]’) that will ‘citify’ her redneck captives. And, true enough, an accidental exposure to that green needle [expletive] turns Russell into a citified, straight-talking, corporate-loving preppy that only a beer infusion machine (the culmination of redneck technology, says its inventor) can cure. Oh, the horrors.

And yet more things lead to other things, and before you know it, Russel and co. are forced to confront Lady Vandemeer and her minions in order to save Sissy and Gigi (Harlen’s wife). And in the process, he comes face to face with the main mastermind…The Head, a giant head on a TV from the future who reveals the truth about Russell’s inventive genius…and his hand in The Head’s plans for world domination.

Are you confused yet? If so, then that makes two of us.

The movie, while consistent and effective in its light-hearted, whimsical tone, nonetheless suffers from an overly drawn out and loose storyline. It takes the film nearly an hour to get to its main plot—the one about Lady Vandemeer looking to turn rednecks into a band of mindless, citified minions (the term of choice, according to the credits) under the mysterious orders of The Head. Meanwhile, we’re left hanging, occasionally laughing at Russell’s antics, but also asking, “okay, so is this going anywhere?” By the time we know what’s really up, we’ve taken several detours into inexplicable tangents. Including a strange Vietnam-like war sequence (which suggests Russell and co. are war veterans…even though the start of the film is Russell as a baby…in 1975…) and one involving a dead chicken in a car engine. Hey, I’m not making this stuff up.

And even when we get to the film’s final revelation, there’s still a sense that we could have gotten there sooner, and that maybe the film should have done more with that whole green needle [expletive] turnin’ them boys’ into citified minions. Because it was a funny premise; it’s just buried beneath a loose plot that dilly dallies way too long in sight gags, toilet humor, and the finer intricacies of redneck vernacular.

Having said all that, the film genuinely has its laugh-out-loud moments. Some of its gags are outright hysterical, including Russell’s occasional pearls of redneck wisdom (“It’s called science. Albert Frankenstein came up with a few years back”). The ending, despite the film’s convolution in getting us there, is brilliant, especially as Russell comes face to face with the truth about who The Head really is. And, for a film that was shot on a micro-budget, the acting is superb across the board, with the actors pulling off their redneck caricatures with seamlessly absurd grace. John Pickle does an especially good job as the title character, making Russell a totally believable doofus. But an industrious, good-hearted, earnest doofus whose idea of romance (including his end-of-film reconciliation with Sissy: “I realized,” he tells his love-starved wife, “that the [expletive] that makes me feel important is right here”), like his inventiveness, is crude but functional. Okay, barely.

In the end, The Importance of Being Russell is an amusing movie with enough humor to sustain its drawn-out, convoluted plot. Tighter plot development could have made this a real indie gem, but it’s a good indie film in its own right thanks to some great performances and genuinely funny gags. And if nothing else, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the best EVER movie about a redneck inventor who invents a time machine telephone that a gaggle of green-needle-[expletive]-wielding bad guys desperately want. Yes, even better than that other one. You know, the one with the guy.

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agentorange (14 years ago) Reply

Haha, great review. If I come across this one I'll have to check it out. Looks pretty whack.


Anonymous (13 years ago) Reply

I saw this when it was called "horse Shit"

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