Friday, April 25, 2014

What To See and What To Skip at Tribeca This Weekend

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Page 4 of 5

Intramural, a sports spoof directed by Andrew Disney
Directed by Andrew Disney

As a sketchy spoof movie in 2014, this has almost too many influences to list: a lovingly low-budget ironic parody like Wet Hot American Summer with a touch of the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay satire and offshoots like Hot Rod and the meta-genre moves of an episode of Community, which is to say a tendency to turn spoofy subtext into actual text spoken by the characters. That's just stuff from the past 15 years. And for all that, the movie winds up more like an indie version of Dodgeball—it even reprises/rips off/ups the ante on "if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

That joke could have been a terrible Friedberg-Seltzer parody-of-a-parody moment, but its shock-laugh lands. It's both cheap and effective—even savvy. Big laughs in comedies like this are often based on surprise, and in a sketch-saturated environment, a broad spoof like Intramural (which screens Friday and Saturday nights) essentially has to surprise twice: first by setting up a sports-movie cliché and subverting it with a twist, second by making sure that the cliché-twist tops the expectation of that surprise (a hazard of spoof-aware audiences). To this end, Intramural has some very funny escalations, and if some of them aren't as courageously sustained as a vintage Adam McKay or David Wain tangent, they also don't eagerly scramble into smug nastiness like a Family Guy episode.

Jake Lacy, whose poor-man's-John Krasinski bona fides were established when he essentially played a young Krasinski on the final stretch of The Office, leads a ragtag team of college students (none looking particularly college-aged; it's a running gag in the movie, how few of these students have managed to graduate in four years) in an intramural football league with laughably low stakes. Lacy is also unhappily/accidentally engaged to a crazy lady played by SNL's Kate McKinnon, unleashing an arsenal of eye-bugs and weird laughs that would (and do) play better in front of a live audience. Her SNL coworker Beck Bennett does better with his similarly over-the-top alpha jock, who at times seems demonically possessed. Intramural is hit and miss, and I say that as someone who would describe "hit and miss" comedies like Step Brothers or Hot Rod as 90 percent hit. But director Andrew Disney has some fun with the visual signatures of underdog-sports movies (pointlessly smoky backlighting gets a lot of screentime), and the scrappiness of the production gives it a sort of ironic authenticity. Jesse Hassenger

Verdict: See if You Want

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