This weekend, there will be a movie released in the shadow of 21 and Run Fat Boy Run. It's been making its way across movie festivals for almost a year, picking up a couple of wins for "Best Here" and "Viewers Choice" there, and drawing some attention along the way. It's this way that filmmakers get their start, that actors get noticed, and that writers earn their stripes. It is a true independent film, normally for film school geeks with something to prove or French people. But now it's gained some theatrical distribution, and it may be outstretching its bounds.
Low budget, gritty and at times a little sloppy, Who's Your Monkey is much like its protagonists. A little lost and a little unfinished, but with a childlike inflatable raft full of guts, heart, and smarts. It boasts the perfect balance of sophomoric humor and witty banter, and is complimented by a cast of journeymen actors, some of whom may be reaching their destinations sooner rather than later.
Monkey is a simple story. Four best friends grow up and realize that life just keeps getting harder. Some lose loved ones, others lose their jobs, and others their bachelorhood- but they refuse to give up is one another. When one accidentally kills a drug dealer and animal pornographer (played perfectly by Kevin Durand of 3:10 to Yuma, Smokin Aces, and Wild Hogs) in the middle of the night, the rest must band together to help him dispose of the body. They, and the pornographer's monkey, must survive the night and recapture the joy of their friendship with one another. At times more money was spent on monkey rental than on making the medical scenes appear believable, but in some ways that adds to the joy of the picture. Independent filmmaking is a brutal process, and you can almost feel filmmaker Todd Breau's low budget problems arriving and being solved as the movie rolls on.
The true "Star" of the picture is Wayne Night (Seinfeld's Newman) who has a quick cameo as a highway patrol man. The rest of the group has been making their way across the entertainment world for over a decade with crowd scenes, shorts, major and independent films and TV series character roles. They are the hero's of the entertainment world. They act because it's in their blood. Their gritty effort is appreciated, and though it is a group that has flowed in and out of the limelight over the years, some may soon be staying for good.
Scott Grimes, who is known better as the voice of Steve Smith on American Dad or on camera as Dr. Archie Morris in ER, manages a balance of true emotional disparity and apathy at the same time, a juxtaposition that is nicely complimented by his dry sense of comedy. Whenever he is on screen, the film stops feeling like an Indy and starts feeling like the real deal.
Jason London, who burst on to the scene with Dazed and Confused nearly twenty years ago, has the detached nature of his character down pat. Though he still seems to use a teenager like comic timing from the early 90's, it is not without its charm. After countless guest starring roles on numerous TV shows, it's amazing to see London poised to return to the limelight.
The other two friends are nicely played by David DeLuise and Scott Michael Campbell; two actors who have been paying their dues and knocking on the door but have yet to bust it down. Deluise commands control of the group and adds a sense of certainty to a group that seems unsure of their dialogue at times. He seems able to call the words his own. Campbell struggles a little more with this idea, but still works perfectly as the squirmy friend everybody loves to hate.
If, in the end, you are one of the few who are able to catch Who's Your Monkey playing in a theater near you, you may find it holds a certain charm, humor, and experience you simply cannot get out of the higher end studio pics. There is a certain level of caring that replaces professionalism, and a certain amount of sloppiness that fits the story like a rubber glove. And funny? Yes, it is that as well. Heck, there's a monkey in it.