Canadian Film Festival: Patch Town Review

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Patch Town (2013)

Cast: Rob Ramsay, Julian Richings, Zoie Palmer
Director: Craig Goodwill
Country: Canada
Genre: Adventure | Comedy | Fantasy | Musical | Sci-fi
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: The following Patch Town review is part of our coverage of the 2014 Canadian Film Festival. For more information visit their official site.

Whether it means to or not, Patch Town does well to invoke the history of cinema in an opening credits cut from old-style newsreel to lacking new-age digital effects. Here is a film that doesn’t want for forebears yet feels quite unlike anything else, a movie that’s made with feet in the past and eyes on the future, its arms wrapped round the present like it wants it all to itself. If ever Craig Goodwill’s comic fantasy were to have a moment, it would be now, if only because it’s a production of audacious immediacy, an energy and enthusiasm that can’t but attract attention. It is loud, it is proud, and it’s as much a daft delight for that as a wearying waste.

Here is a film that doesn’t want for forebears yet feels quite unlike anything else, a movie that’s made with feet in the past and eyes on the future, its arms wrapped round the present like it wants it all to itself.

patch_town_2013_4It is adapted from Goodwill’s well-received 2011 short of the same name, which made enough of an absurd impact on the festival circuit to warrant this expansion. Certainly the idea seems suited to thrice the length: like Toy Story by way of Brazil, the bureaucratic world of cabbage-born babies sold as dolls in which it begins is brilliantly bonkers, the kind of fantasy world so strange only a musical approach could do it justice. And indeed it does: the world-building wonder of Goodwill’s approach makes for an enticing introductory act, the expository dialogue offset by endearingly odd lyrics, budget setbacks masked with the madcap invention of the plot’s integral insanity.

What a terrible shame, then, to leave that world behind as the story steps up and moves the action to our own, sending its hero off on a quest to track down the woman who owned him in doll form as a youth. Fish-out-of-water antics are fine for a laugh, and Goodwill’s are no different, but how awful to leave behind that lovely water. It’s not only for the disguise donned by an accomplice that the movie brings to mind Elf at this juncture, no fate to be sniffed at but nor one that makes for much of an improvement over the erstwhile mania. No satirical sci-fi musical, after all, should ever end up seeming quite so standard.

“What makes you think we deserve better?” the hero’s wife asks him in answer to a rousing statement-of-intent he makes as the film moves toward its increasingly-unengaging endpoint. It’s the movie’s own opening potential that lets us know that we, at least, do.

patch_town_2013_2That’s the ultimate, untoward fate for Patch Town: failing to meet the mad-as-nuts novelty of its premise with anything approaching as enjoyably odd an execution. The cast, for their part, sure try. Julian Riching’s impeccably-dressed villain is a campy highlight, expertly accessorised with Ken Hall’s amusing underling. Rob Ramsay’s lungs evidently earn him the role; it’s to his credit that they almost go forgotten at times. More trying is Suresh John, if only for the role itself, as weakly written a caricature as the bulk of the Russian baddies, whose players meet the limitations of the scripting with accents appropriately bad to boot. Cutting satire this sure ain’t; Patch Town’s commitment to broad silliness costs it a lot.

Which isn’t to say they’re mutually exclusive; Brazil, of course, is both in spades. A film of such nuance Patch Town is not, and in its efforts to lend some sense of seriousness to its drama it falls fatally flat, selling its silliness short just like that did its satire.  “What makes you think we deserve better?” the hero’s wife asks him in answer to a rousing statement-of-intent he makes as the film moves toward its increasingly-unengaging endpoint. It’s the movie’s own opening potential that lets us know that we, at least, do. For all its out-there oddity, all the cabbage-based chaos of a plot that’s utterly singular, Patch Town is a film that feels far less unique than it ought to.

[notification type=”star”]49/100 ~ BAD. For all its out-there oddity, all the cabbage-based chaos of a plot that’s utterly singular, Patch Town is a film that feels far less unique than it ought to. [/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.