Title: Here’s the Kicker
Director: Chris Harris
Starring: Ian Michaels, Sarah Smick, Luce Rains, Matthew Linhardt, Daniella Monet, Andrea Helene, Dan Lauria
Given the expansive size of the United States, road movies are of course a staple of American independent cinema. One supposes that at a certain time (in the days of Easy Rider, maybe, and certainly before) they were a great way to showcase the sprawling natural beauty of this country, and the wonderful, weird diversity of its citizenry. Now it seems they’re mainly a substitute for the comparative heavy lift of actual dramatic or comedic writing, or an excuse for shoddy, catch-as-catch-can production values. Both of the latter are certainly true of Here’s the Kicker, a messy and roundly unengaging dramedy that recently played as part of the 14th annual Dances With Films festival.
Written by and starring Ian Michaels, the movie centers on Simon Matthews, a one-time football placekicker who’s now stuck working a series of dead-end jobs in Los Angeles. His girlfriend, Brittany Berry (Sarah Smick), is equally adrift, working as a make-up artist in the adult film industry. With little left tying them to the area, Simon and Brittany set out for Texas, with loose plans of visiting both Simon’s pal Teddy (Matthew Linhardt) and Brittany’s dad (Dan Lauria), and eventually opening up a combination saloon-and-salon, in which guys can drink and watch sports while their ladies get their hair done.
Teddy turns out to be a mess, and leaves his wife and daughter, hooking a ride out of town with Simon and Brittany. The trio then stops off at Simon’s parents, where his sister Lacey (Daniella Monet, displaying a bit of sly jailbait sass) is under house arrest and his father Al (Luce Rains) has fallen off the wagon, leaving mother Jeanette (Andrea Helene) frazzled and kind of checked out. Unbeknownst to Brittany, however, Simon has finally gotten a football-related job offer, as a college scout. The problem is that would put them back in L.A. As Simon struggles with how to break this news to the girl whom he wants to wed, what might be charitably described as hijinks ensue.
Here’s the Kicker has so many problems that it’s hard to know where to begin. Simon is presented as an ex-NFL placekicker waylaid by a knee injury, but Michaels evinces neither the physique nor, more crucially, the mindset, countenance and presentation of an athlete. Michaels conveys his legacy in awkward ways, having some people ask Simon for an autograph but also making his alma mater a super-small school that still apparently has all of their games televised. That everything about the grander mooring of Simon’s past feels so immediately and viscerally false undercuts the movie right out of the gate, and then makes entire sequences laughable for all the wrong reasons.
There are a small handful of amusing ideas or one-liners (Simon proposes “Hair and Balls” as a name for the establishment he and Brittany wish to open), and Michaels, a subpar performer, at least shares a nice chemistry with Smick. But the film’s screenplay is fairly uninspired, leaning heavily on wacky contrivance, and forcing its characters to do stupid things (stopped by a police officer for skipping out on a diner check, the van’s inhabitants decide to eat the contents of a bag of Al’s weed) that make no real sense.
Director Chris Harris, also taking cinematography and editing credits, doesn’t have a lot with which to work, but he doesn’t help matters by staging flat scenes that play out in awkward fashion. Nothing about Here’s the Kicker ever really connects, either comedically or certainly emotionally. Portions of the movie seem to augur a madcap farce, but that tone is never sustained for too long. Football kickers may get no respect as athletes, but watching this film it’s hard to argue that they, or those who portray them, should get any respect at all.
Written by: Brent Simon