SXSW 2013 Review: AWFUL NICE is Painfully Funny
To call director Todd Sklar's sense of humor peculiar is to understate the weird and wacky no-holds-barred comedy we've come to know in his work. One look at his hit short '92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card and his punch-you-in-the-balls style will be apparent. With Awful Nice, that short has now seen the feature adaptation treatment, and if the small version had you chuckling, the super-sized package will have you in stitches
As seen in 92SAMRC, the story begins when Jim (James Pumphrey) finds his brother Dave (Alex Rennie) passed out in a wigwam and bribes him into driving back to Minnesota with him to attend their father's funeral. Drinking contests turn into fist fights and eventually Jim and Dave set out for Branson, MO to collect their inheritance in the form of the family's summer home. When the plan to flip it for a quick buck hits a snag, the brothers decide to stick around Branson and fix it up themselves.
If you've seen Sklar's previous work, then it probably goes without saying that nothing ever really goes as planned. In Sklar's world, it seems perfectly normal that Jim, a college professor, would be easily convinced that the hardware store is closed by 3pm and they should just spend the day getting wasted on punchbowls full of tropical drinks and fighting with drunken business men over the sanctity of prostitutes. Any number of violent altercations with locals (and each other), run-ins with the Russian mob, and a healthy amount of firecrackers are all in a day's work for Jim and Dave.
That's pretty much Sklar's shtick in a nutshell: irreverent dude humor at its best. Rennie's performance is hilarious (comparisons to Charlie Day are apt) and Pumphrey nails it as the straight man who is easy to feel sympathy for. Couple that with a devil-may-care filmmaking style that probably had the crew members plenty familiar with fire extinguisher use by picture wrap, and you end up with a very memorable indie comedy that's sure to find plenty of fans.