Title: 3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom
Director: Jordan Roberts
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Lizzy Caplan, Chris O’Dowd, Chris Noth, Ron Perlman, Nora Dunn, Whitney Cummings, Sam Anderson
Provided one submits to its base level of intentional ridiculousness, there’s some wacky charm to be found in the low-budget, somewhat awkwardly titled “3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom” (a play at iTunes eyeball-catching, via its listing of numeric titles first… honestly), a comedy of fraternal bickering that hinges on scrambled efforts to squash a leaked sex tape. A bawdy conceit worthy of Judd Apatow gets a madcap spin by way of “Get Shorty” in writer-director Jordan Roberts’ self-financed affair, a choppy collection of character-based sketch ideas that’s elevated by a talented, game cast.
The Los Angeles-set film aims to wring laughs chiefly from putting its title character (Charlie Hunnam, of “Sons of Anarchy”) through the wringer. When his older brother Bruce (Chris O’Dowd, of “Bridesmaids”) graduates from rehab, their parents (Nora Dunn and Sam Anderson) guilt Frankie into coming home and seeing him for the first time in years. Frankie still stings from a shame attached to a years-ago Internet infamy, when would-be filmmaker Bruce posted a humiliating wedding video online. History repeats itself after Frankie hooks up with the recently jilted Lassie (the delightful Lizzy Caplan), but initially fails to achieve an erection. Bruce’s “artistic” ambitions get the most of him, and his surreptitiously recorded sex tape falls into the wrong hands. Escalating insanity ensues, as Frankie and Bruce turn to the latter’s prison pal Phil, now transsexual Phyllis (Ron Perlman), for assistance in removing the video from the Internet.
Roberts’ movie feels a bit less like a cogently plotted narrative and more like the product of an over-caffeinated bender following the injected enthusiasm of a gung-ho, DIY screenwriting class. It’s all about energy, and forward momentum; even the dialogue isn’t so much concerned with the traditional patter of set-ups and jokes as it is winding up its colorful characters and having them play off one another, their agitation stoking fires of shocked amusement. Ergo, one can nitpick over characters and story arc, to be sure. And it’s certainly true that the personality of Bruce doesn’t really jibe with that of an addict/alcoholic, whether in their disease or not. But Roberts’ cast tackles the material with gusto, and squeezes out from it a lot of fun. Perlman and Caplan are particularly lively and memorable, and Whitney Cummings and Chris Noth — the former as Bruce’s editor/jock-warmer, and the latter as Lassie’s deranged dad — also have some delicious scenes.
Most big screen comedies exist on either a laid track of genteel hamminess or cynical misanthropy, which “Frankie Go Boom” eschews. Everyone in this movie is a bit unhinged and damaged — even its putative protagonist, who can’t establish proper boundaries that would enable him to move on with his life. It’s not at all a naturalistic or even moralizing film, wherein capital-l lessons are learned, but in its own way Roberts’ movie makes the point that family relationships are often so uncomfortable and potentially toxic because they afford us the opportunity — and almost oblige us — to slip back into old roles and exhausted power dynamics, where bad habits and choices exist.
Written by: Brent Simon