Movie Review: Heavy Times (2010/Release 2011)
Summary: Three friends are pressured into a wild night of partying by an alcoholic who wants to take them to Montreal.
“Hugh” (Jason Bruner) is a youth basketball coach and not much else besides being a guy with enough of a sense of humor to have an email address containing the words “Hugh-man sieman.” “Mark” (Adam Lauver) may be the most verbally astute of the three, but he sells used cars on a small, seedy car lot and is a terrible salesman. “Dan” (Brian D. Evans) has it the worst, as he is a sign-holder on the street who finds it in himself to brave the drive-by curse words and ridicule on a daily basis.
Tricking themselves into thinking they will have a good time, the three take a jacked-up 1987 eyesore of a van that Mark is considering purchasing from his dealership and hit a local party scene where Dan hopes the girl he has a crush on doesn't remember that he threw up all over her a week earlier. They do less than score with the ladies or fit in. Bored and out of options as to how to occupy themselves, the three tag along with Dan to his sister’s (Leah Garvin) house where they meet her husband, the most annoying blowhard they’ve ever met, an alcoholic party machine who calls himself “Uncle Rick” (Jeff Koen).
To say that the meet-up makes the three uneasy is understating matters. Not content to stop at criticizing and passively belittling his brother-in-law and his two friends by making genital remarks followed by other insults back at home, Rick decides to take them out for a night of irresponsible drinking, after which time, he peer-pressures them into taking a trip to Montreal to show them what real partying is like.
En route, they meet “Gunther,” (Keaton Farmer) Mark’s ex-roommate and newly made Satanist whose goal is to usher in the return of the antichrist. He lives in the basement of his contrastingly sane sister “Anna” (Melina Chadbourne), but happens to be the only force known to the three capable of offsetting the bat-shit insanity of Rick on this out-of-control night of partying and insults.
The movie, like most that ride on the theme of The Hangover (2009) and Ready or Not (2009), consists of comedy that features some honest, hardworking guys and the writers’ desire to let the audience know that the road to hedonism is bricked with many an opportunity for enlightenment. Heavy Times nails the comedy aspect of things, and in doing so, equally succeeds at exploring a wider range of emotions in its spry story, making it both funnier and more interesting than The Hangover and other recent binge-focused films.
Amidst rap showdowns, an obnoxious brother-in-law, and topless girls in hot tubs, it is the show-stealing character of Rick that will max out any “crazy uncle” story you have heard or can recall. Koen does more than put loads of energy into his performance. He can epitomize, at every glance, his role of the self-absorbed, self-deluded know-it-all whose offensively opinionated and dominating personality makes us want to shoot him in the head, despite the fact that Rick has no idea why or how he intimidates everyone he comes in contact with.
Viewers find themselves torn between an abundant supply of the relentlessly raunchy humor that keeps coming and the stomach-turning, pressure-building antics of Rick who can make whole audiences feel like they’re walking into a fight as surely as he can make them laugh.
The kernel of our story consists not just of Rick, but of the three guys he pushes around. The audience is made as uncomfortable as Mark and Dan must be in Rick’s presence. Few would put up with him for half as long as these guys do, but that’s part of why these losers fail. They let others set the pace, being too afraid to stand up for themselves. Rick is the key to the lock that bars them from ever being let loose from the bonds of their inhibitions.
All three – Hugh, Dan, and Mark – are as pathetic together as they are apart, but only Hugh knows it going in and takes an affinity to this so-called “uncle” who acts as though he has the wisdom and wit of a retired mobster. Heavy Times is the three’s escalation towards the realization of just what they’re missing in life—a sense of adventure and the ability to “de-stress,” as Rick puts it.
The well-defined personalities and sharply mapped out characters allow the viewing experience to be far more meaningful in a genre where the comedies tend to be cheap, tawdry, and bong-obsessed. Heavy Times lets its story take the lead, allowing the film to emerge as a strongly acted and obscenely funny excursion that will make as lasting of an impression on audiences as Rick himself.
Grade: A- (4 stars)
Rated: No MPAA rating (contains, language, drug use, and brief female nudity)
Directors: Benjamin Mark, Ryan McKenna
Starring: “Hugh” (Jason Bruner), “Mark” (Adam Lauver), “Rick” (Jeff Koen), “Dan” (Brian D Evans), “T-bone” (Tony Moschetto), “Hot Tub Girl 1” (Stacey Puopolo), “Hot Tub Girl 2” (Theresa Novicky), “Meghan” (Leah Garvin), “Rachel” (Bridget Palardy), “Sarah” (Karla Rose Fuller), “Anna” (Melina Chadbourne)