Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

‘The Amateurs’ is a good example of why I’d probably be a miserable failure as movie executive, not that I’m a great success at anything else. Personally I thought the movie was side splittingly funny but apparently I’m one of the few people on the planet who found this little movie even remotely amusing. Though ‘The Amateurs’ isn’t quite Direct to DVD, it is about as close as it can get to being DTD without actually being DTD since it was released to a couple of theaters a few years ago, made less money than what a Burger King deep fry cook makes in about six months, sat on a shelf for another couple of years before finally getting dumped to DVD obscurity. I on the other hand, Christopher the big time movie executive, would have watched a screening of this movie and released it to 3800 theaters dead certain that it would be a massive hit and then subsequently would had gotten myself fired, as ‘The Moguls’ as it was originally titled, would have became 2005’s ‘Hudson Hawk’. Oh well. None of this changes the fact that I thought ‘The Amateurs’ was really, really funny.

Jeff Bridges narrates as the main character of Andy Sargentee, a lifelong resident of the small town of Butterface Iowa or Idaho or Montana, I can’t really remember. Andy is one of those ‘big idea’ guys who is always sitting around thinking about the next killer plan that’s going to get him and his loyal resident friends stupid paid. ‘Big Idea’ guys, and we all know at least one, tend not to function well in regular society because holding regular jobs and relationships tend to directly clash with the next idea, as we have witnessed with Andy who has lost his wife Thelma (Jeanne Tripplehorn), and can’t keep a job to save his life.

Then suddenly, during one of Andy’s solitary brainstorming sessions at the local pub, inspiration hits. He and the locals are going to make a porno flick! Yes, it sounds ridiculous and of course a whole town in the real world would probably never band together to make an adult film but this is what they’re going to do. To assist in the

making of this film are the town’s colorful residents who round out our film and Andy’s close lifelong friends. There’s his number one Barney (Tim Blake Neslon) who will serve as the films PR director and is notable in that he’s in love with the town’s delusional floozie Helen (Glenne Headly). There’s Moose (Ted Danson) who is the overly heterosexual compensating homosexual – another guy we all know. There’s Somie (Joe Pantoliano), better known as Some Idiot who will serve as the films writer / director and there’s also Otis (William Fitchner) who simply being named Otis should let you know what kind of character his is and he will serve as the films executive producer. There are way more wacky characters since this flick features almost every single recognizable working character actor in Hollywood, but who has the time?

So we follow our crew as they go through the process of writing, casting and producing an amateur pornographic feature film, while local video store clerk Emmitt (Patrick Fugit) captures the entire process on his little Mini DV camcorder and will also serve as the films Director of Photography. There will be pitfalls and pratfalls on this journey to pornographic riches but as the little town of Butterface will teach us, life is more about the journey than the destination. Or something along those lines I think.

Apparently this films writer and director Michael Traeger has a sense of style and humor that is completely in line with my own because this movie was killing me. Humor-wise, the thing about this movie that really worked for me, in addition to the obvious coconut on the head type humor that is plentiful in this film, but the best and the funniest parts are the clever little bits that are in the background and off in the periphery. Traeger’s direction is drum tight and his dialog is smart and witty and delivered by a virtual army of skilled and talented character actors who treat comic timing almost as if it’s a second sight. Watching the character of Andy reading off sections of Some Idiot’s 190 page pornographic blockbuster script was simply classic. That stuff was funny man and I don’t care what anybody else says. There was all kind of silly funny stuff in the movie similar to that, that again I don’t have the time to get into since I’m actually at my job and am tricking people into thinking I’m actually typing company related stuff, which kept me amused from the films start to its finish.

Yeah, the movie is silly because though I have no idea how one goes about the process of really making a porn flick, it probably looks nothing like this, and I doubt that most people really involved in porn are as funny and as sweet as the folks of Butterface Idaho Montana Iowa. ‘The Amateurs’ is also overly sentimental, probably to a fault as it could almost be one of those Hallmark movies by the time in ended, that is if you take out the porn stuff, the vibrating sex toys, the scene of Miss Tessmacher getting anally violated and terms like Donut Bumping. That one’s a new one for me.

I might be in the minority but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a funny ass movie. Considering that this is his first film, and unfortunately considering the reception that this one got probably his last film, Michael Traeger, who I think is a genius, might not have hit it out the park with ‘The Amateurs’ but at the very least he line-drived a warning track triple.

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