There’s an old saying: Never assume – you only make an ass out of u and me. Clever. But sometimes we have no choice but to make certain assumptions or else forever be baffled. For example, I have to make certain assumptions about Chadd Harbold’s “Revenge for Jolly!”, coming to DVD May 7th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. I assume Mr. Harbold is either currently a film student or one who recently graduated. I also assume he comes from a wealthy family or knows people with money. Finally, I have to assume that the film’s star is full of himself and quite possibly the guy giving Harbold the money to make this movie. But all assumptions aside, the fact is: there ain’t nothing jolly about “Jolly!”
On paper it sounds like it could be funny. Harry (Brian Petsos) is in trouble with some bad people. Deciding to skip town, he spends his last night drinking and playing Candy Land with his cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac). When he returns home to collect gather his belongings and his beloved Chihuahua, Jolly, he finds the pup dead in his living room. Inconsolable and fully enraged, Harry enlists the help of Cecil to hunt down Jolly’s murderer and to kill anyone who gets in their way.
Revenge for a dead dog. Could be funny. Maybe. But what’s this? Cast members include SNL’s Bobby Moynihan, Adam Brody, Kevin Corrigan, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe and Frodo Baggins himself: Elijah Wood. How bad could this be?
To put it bluntly: it’s pretty awful.
Let’s start out with my first assumption. Harbold is a student filmmaker. If he’s not, he makes movies like a college sophomore. Long, drawn out shots. Overacting. Too much talking, possibly improvised tangents kept in the picture to fluff egos. More “Thank You’s” in the credits than actual crew members. A script that tries too hard to be funny/cool/several genres at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with someone like this attempting to make a movie. But the cast that’s been assembled for this mediocre exercise in self-indulgence, leads me to assumption number two:
Harbold is trying to buy his way into Hollywood.
Carpenters build houses. Bakers bake bread. Actors act. If you pony up enough money, you too could pay for this cast and shoot them playing “Cowboys and Indians” in your backyard. On VHS, even. They don’t give a shit as long as the check clears. As Harbold’s feature film debut, “Jolly!” may have been slightly more palatable or even forgivable had it been a smaller production. Sure, big names help you sell your movie, but quality always finds a buyer. It’s impressive when somebody makes a great film on the cheap. But reverse it and make a shitty film with all the money in the world and it’s almost offensive. While I couldn’t find a budget, there’s no way this cast worked for free based on the strength of the script. It’s a horrible script. Enter, the third assumption:
Brian Petsos is an egotistical wannabe actor who’s likely bankrolling the production of his own insipid script to further his career.
The script is boring, stupid, not funny and trying so hard to be… something more than the turd that it is. Lines like, “Please don’t scream. We haven’t killed anybody. Yet.” and “Sometimes the hands get so dirty, no amount of washing can ever get ‘em clean.” delivered by a fake Coen Bros. character are as good as it gets. Almost as if he knows how lousy his own writing is, Petsos walks around with a permanent frown, almost as if in a daze (which is probably meant to convey either distress or a frontal lobotomy). The guy has as much charisma as tile mildew. Also credited as a producer, he might’ve been better off letting another actor take the lead role, relegating himself to a small part or a cameo appearance and focusing on producing something bearable to watch. Instead of all the money spent on name actor cameos, they should’ve invested in someone who would’ve made Harry more than just a trigger-happy, sleepwalking mope. Another option would be to hire a script doctor to fix the colossal train wreck spread across 85 pages worth of trees who died in vain.
As far as the DVD goes, there are no frills. It’s the feature film and nothing else. Sony quite wisely has chosen not to sink any money into this one with anything more than a static menu image and previews for better movies. I guess it looks and sounds ok, but who really cares when it’s something you really don’t want to watch/hear any more of after the first 3 minutes?
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to give “Revenge for Jolly!” Cinema Judgement Day’s first Skull N’ Bones rating… like a “Jolly” Roger. This is a 0/0 with absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. It’s not funny with pointless, gratuitous violence. If anything, you’ll come away from this film looking differently at the stars whom you may have once admired. But really, to recommend this movie would be to recommend someone piss away 85 minutes of their time as the only thing satisfying about the film is the ending. Not because Harry gets his revenge for Jolly, but because the rolling credits mean you won’t have to endure any more of it.