Bigger Than the Sky (2005)

No way are you going to click on this review. No way. So I’ll have to force your hand: this movie is connected to Rick Van Ryan, the acidic metalhead from the ’80s rock flick favorite Incident at Channel Q. Now if that doesn’t make you want to read this film review . . . well, I’ll just have to hang up my laptop, take an online preacher course and, with laser-printed certificate in hand, open a 501(c)(3) “church” and save the world: for I have failed as a writer. Hey, as Richard Pryor’s Daddy Rich says, “There’s a good place in this world for money: it’s right here in my pocket.”

Watch the trailer.

Peter Rooker (Belgium actor Marcus Thomas of the John Travolta bomb The Forger; the better Kill the Irishman with Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken) is a man with zero confidence, stumbling through life in Portland, Oregon. He perpetually laments to his closest confidant, his sister, about his “boring personality, job, and life.” And he can’t understand why his girlfriend dumped him?

Pining for a “sense of belonging,” Peter spots a posting for open auditions at the Portland Community Theater for their production of Edmond Rostand’s neo-romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac: if he can only get a part, albeit a small one, it would fill the emptiness. So, with zero acting experience, not only does Peter land a part—he’s cast as Cyrano. Now, if you know your Cyrano, you know it’s a story of a life rife with myth and invention and, with the cast in dual roles, life begins to imitate art. Eventually, Peter learns not to believe in the green and materialism, but to believe in himself and accept the kindness of others, in this case, his theatre mates, who show him the art of living is in the giving, not the wanting.

To quote a line from Cyrano: “You’re a genuinely good man, Peter. There aren’t many of you left.”

If you’ve a person who loves the performing arts, worked in community theatre or donated your skills to a local film school (or a non-com radio station) this charming film—with its spot on characterization of actors who do it for the love of the craft and not for fame and fortune, will resonate. If you’re not familiar with that world and you’re anti rom-com, you’ll most likely slag all of the various film disciplines.

Bottom line: Al Corley shines as a director and works his way around a $750,000 budget with aplomb; it sadden me that this was Corley’s only fictional feature film. He did, however, make his directing debut with Last Dance (yes, after the Donna Summer smash disco song; aka “Letzter Tanz,” aka “Nackte Tanzlust” in its homeland), a 1994 feature-length, German-produced television docudrama combining interviews, actor re-creations and stock footage to examine the lives of the nighttime denizens who haunted Manhattan’s famed disco Studio 54. And Corley was the right man for the job: he worked as a doorman and concierge at the club.

Rounding out Corley’s affable and reliable cast are John Corbett (you know who he is: Aidan Shaw from Sex and the City; because your girlfriend made you watch) and the always likeable you-want-to-kiss her “love interest” Amy Smart (of the new cable TV recycling favorite Just Friends starring a fat n’ geeky Deadpool), along with Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings franchise), Claire Higgins (the Hellraiser franchise), and the always divine Ms. Patty Duke (The Amityville Horror franchise; we explored it in full, here).

Screenwriter Rodney Patrick Vaccaro’s big screen debut was the romantic comedy Three to Tango (1999) starring then “hot” TV’s Friends Matthew Perry and the he-can-do-anything-and-is-great-in-everything-and-elevates-it-to-the-next-level Dylan McDermott (awesome in Hardware and awesomer in The Clovehitch Killer).

And did you know that Vincent Spano (another “Dylan McDermott”)—yes, Mark, the BB gun shootin’, dirt bikin’ badass from the 1979 juvenile deliquent classic Over the Edge—starred in a romantic comedy with Patricia Heaton of TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond? He did. And Vaccaro wrote it: The Engagement Ring (2005).

Vaccaro’s recently teamed with director Dustin Nguyen (Harry Truman Ioki from Johnny Depp’s 21 Jump Street, TV’s Seaquest DSV and the Pam Anderson syndicated series V.I.P; he’s since directed several Vietnamese-language films) and screenwriter Richard Wenk (Bruce Willis’s 16 Blocks, the Jason Statham remake of The Mechanic, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Equalizer film franchise) on the now-in-production, English-language action flick, The Last Mission (as of November 2021, that project is still in its pre-production stages).

Bigger Than the Sky recently made its free 2020 streaming debut—with limited commercials—courtesy of Vudu. As of 2021, it’s now available as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. However, if you prefer an ad-free experience, it is still available — and well-reviewed with four and a half user-stars — on Amazon.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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