Editor’s Notes: Awful Nice hits theatres in limited release today, March 7th.
There are plenty of great movies about there about the simmering tensions within families. There are numerous fascinating and compelling looks at brothers who have grown in separate directions, who have ancient resentments that are never fully buried and never quite die. There are movies about relationships being repaired in the event of a tragedy, and many of these are even comedic. Then there’s Awful Nice, a train-wreck of a movie that is insight-free, completely without nuance, and wholly unable to conjure even a single chuckle.
…a train-wreck of a movie that is insight-free, completely without nuance, and wholly unable to conjure even a single chuckle.
From the first, it is fairly clear that Awful Nice is a slow-moving disaster of a movie. We quickly learn that Jim (James Pumphrey) is the responsible one in the family when he seeks out his black sheep brother Dave (Alex Rennie) to inform him their father has died and Dave needs to come home for the funeral. The death of their father is treated so glibly, its clear we are supposed to find their indifference funny. But it, like everything else in this crass, lifeless procession of gross-out humor and poorly conceived absurdity, is not. It would be one thing if Jim and Dave were unlikable; plenty of great films have centered on unlikable protagonists. But they are a far sight worse: these two are wholly unsympathetic.
Once they are reunited, and forced to work together to fix up their father’s old cabin so they can flip it for a profit, the film becomes a series of thoughtless, undercooked set-pieces, each of which quickly devolves from shoddy plotting to lame anarchy. Virtually every scene involves the brothers violently assaulting one another as if they were children made strong by some sort of Big-style wishing machine and used their newfound adulthood to pummel each other endlessly and without rhyme or reason. When these two aren’t drinking, punching each other, masturbating, or destroying the house they are supposed to be fixing, they are plagued by a series of horribly broad characters who seem intended to fill out their world but mostly serve to remind us we are watching a series of barely sketched in cartoons run rampant over a plot that never bothered to cohere in the first place. Christopher Meloni plays a friend of the boy’s fathers as a cross between Bob Evans and a Long Island caricature in a role that started bland and unfunny and became grating and almost unwatchable in his hands. Meloni is clearly trying to do something with the complete lack of material he has been given, but the decisions he makes are so off-base, it is bewildering.
Awful Nice just plays like the worst possible night at an improv show, where every bit falls flat and then extends itself endlessly.
It is clear that many of the people involved in this movie can be funny, and Rennie often comes close to connecting with an actual joke. Awful Nice just plays like the worst possible night at an improv show, where every bit falls flat and then extends itself endlessly. The film feels woefully underscripted, as if co-writers Rennie and Todd Sklar (the latter also directs) figured they’d be funny on the day and just happened to be wrong this time out. The brothers never feel like humans as much as they feel like balls of anger trading bad jokes and flimsy excuses for silliness. Even the direction is misbegotten, ruining some clever visual jokes with jarring camera moves that ruin the intended effect. Awful Nice never seems to know exactly where its going, so it is no surprise that it never gets anywhere at all. The film ends up playing like a terrible, endless stand-up set: it’s more painful than funny, and you just end up feeling bad for everyone involved. Someone, somewhere thought this was funny. And that person deserves our greatest sympathy.
[notification type=”star”]23/100 ~ PAINFUL. Awful Nice never seems to know exactly where its going, so it is no surprise that it never gets anywhere at all. The film ends up playing like a terrible, endless stand-up set: it’s more painful than funny, and you just end up feeling bad for everyone involved.[/notification]