“Ah, two peas in a pod and not a pot to piss in.”
— Yuri the Knifethrower breaks it down to truth
This tale of two down-and-out, twenty-something losers reminds of Step Brothers (2008) — and a whole bunch of earlier ’80s comedies. Was it screenwriter Cameron Van Hoy’s intention to create a retro-’80s comedy? One thing is for sure: Cameron Van Hoy — who’s the screenwriter — and his fellow up-and-coming co-star Michael Drayer, are certainly as chemistry-talented as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.
They star as the broke and busted best buddies Vince Valley (Van Hoy) and Freddy Krebs (Drayer, who’s guest starred on the Law & Order franchise, The Sopranos, and most recently on NCIS: Los Angeles) reduced to living in a tent in the backyard of Freddy’s parents. Vince and Freddy are perpetual dreamers who, instead of getting jobs (Freddy refuses to work for the family’s Bible-publishing business), they’re always looking for the “idea of a lifetime” to strike it rich — without the hard work that goes into becoming wealthy. Their latest, can’t-miss idea: shark-proof wet suits. Of course, no one, including their put-upon parents (Dennis Haskins; Principal Belding from Saved by the Bell, Abstruse, A Bennett Song Holiday, and the we-don’t-see-her-enough Joan Severance of TV’s Wiseguy, and coolest female “Batman” ever in Black Scorpion), will back the idea.
Cue Jon Lovitz.
He’s his usual, droll pisser-self as Max (we first met him as he rants about vaginas), a local L.A. loan shark-cum-nightclub owner who, instead of fronting them the money, becomes infuriated when his crush, Isabella (the new-to-the-scene and very good Kinga Kierzek), the receiving half of a knife-throwing duo performing at the club, takes a liking to the likeable ne’er-do-wells. (You’ll recognize her act-partner, Yuri, as Ken Davitian from his most recent work in the series-streaming Corba Kai and the film Borat. Stick around for his rant about chickens and ducks.) Now Max has sent his goons to get Isabella back and take care of Vince and Freddy. Of course, it doesn’t help that she robbed Max. Will these cool-nerds get their act together to save the girl? (Stick around for the comedic-bent, Reservoir Dogs-warehouse confrontation. Funny stuff.)
While his name leads on the theatrical one-sheet — this is a Cameron Van Hoy and Michael Drayer showcase, after all (deserving so; they’re both very good, here) — Lovitz isn’t here as much as we’d like, but when he shows up, he nails his small-time gangster role, and Joan Severance reminds us why we miss seeing her on camera, as she oozes the cougar heat for her son’s best friend. (Lovitz was also equally great in his sidekick role to British rockers Status Quo, in our “Rock Week” review 2013’s Bula Quo!.)
Unlike a Judd Apatow flick written by Seth Rogan and starring Ben Stiller with James Franco, Almost Sharkproof is delightfully innocuous, which throws it all back to the comedies of the ’80s — instead of carbon-copying today’s brand of 21st Century raunch. Are the proceedings sometime clichéd? Maybe, but you never once groan, because once you get on the comedic chase through the underbelly of Los Angeles, you enjoy the retro-comedy ride that’s rife with genuine, laugh-out loud moments — all courtesy a great script by Cameron Van Hoy. If the acting thing doesn’t work out (it will; again, he’s very good) for Van Hoy, he will surely make his mark as a screenwriter to complete for the screens with Rogan.
It’s been a long-hard road to distribution for Cameron Van Hoy and his co-directors Simon Chan (his second, next feature film is the horror-western Satan’s Children) and Joe Rubalcaba (who got his start with the iCarly tween-franchise), who completed the film in 2014. And their hard work has paid off as TriCoast Worldwide, in conjunction with Rock Salt Releasing, bring Almost Sharkproof to the worldwide streaming audience on March 5, 2021.
Disclaimer: We received a screener from the distributor. That has no bearing on our review.