(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: THE MINI is an amiable if not always funny comedy made by a crew of new-comers behind and in front of the camera. There approach is scattershot gags with weird characters, film allusions, and funny incidents like an accidental bank robbery. The film takes some patience, but the comic style does eventually kick in. Vulgarity is kept to a minimum and intentionally sexual humor never rears its head. It will be interesting to see writer/director Ron Beck's next film. Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

The cliché in the old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland films was that a bunch of inexperienced people get together and say, "Hey, let's put on a show!" The show, of course, comes out as well as MGM studios could make it. So what happens when a bunch of newcomers really do put on a show? That was more or less a case with the cast and crew of THE MINI, a 2007 comedy written and directed by first-timer Ron Beck and a crew of other first-timers who get together and make a film. They have a lot of their act together, but it takes some time for THE MINI to get its comic rhythm going. Watching the film I asked myself several times why it wasn't going over better than it was. There were several gags that should have been funny, but there was something missing in the timing. Eventually I found myself going with the action. Not every gag is funny, but then the same could be said of the film AIRPLANE! Making a few allowances this is a very good-natured little comedy.

THE MINI has a somewhat familiar story line. We have the likable loser who can become a winner if he wins the big game (in this case a mini-marathon race). The 30-something failure has found himself in a dead end job selling futons in a mall bedding store. Everybody knows that where the action is is selling... mattresses. Everybody knows that where the action is is selling... MATTRESSES. (Still no laughs?) Well, that is what is going on with the humor. You can tell where the jokes are, but somehow the delivery does not always work the first time through. Eventually humor does start kicking in with enough jokes that they can spare the ones that don't work.

Fran Molon (played by Larry Dahlke) is our futon salesman who wants to move up to selling mattresses. The guy selling mattresses currently is Rick (Chris Stack), a creep who is clearly the favorite of the manager Stan (Darrell Francis), an even bigger creep. Rick and Stan constantly belittle Fran, and in a moment of levity Stan claims that if Fran can win the mall's mini-marathon race, Fran can sell mattresses. Fran is the kind of guy who has never won anything, but he decides to try for the big race. A lot of the film is following the loser through life as other people take advantage of him while he prepares for the big race. Fran bounces off of his buddy Dale (Jeff Stockberger) and his new cute girlfriend Carmen (Angie Craft). There is some chemistry in the comic relationship between Fran and Dale.

There are mock-tragic stories of Fran's and Dale's youth; there is a frustrating run-in with an auto-repair shop; there is a sequence borrowed from a certain martial arts film; there are bizarre characters; there is some dating awkwardness. Whatever seemed like it might work got thrown into the stew pot.

This is a low-budget film--reportedly it cost only $25,000--made to show off the comic ability of a small group of actors. It shows promise, but it feels like it aimed for AIRPLANE! and instead gave us a weak NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE. I rate it a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. I expect that Beck will do more films and they will be more on-target.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper