In the realm of post-apocalyptic movies, few locations appear less dire than Frazier Park. Casually referred to as The FP, this area is struggling because they lack access to alcohol. The residents must turn to drugs (apparently Diet Coke is in short supply), and the region is suffering. The tyrant L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy) leads because of his dominance at Beat Beat Revelation, and no one is capable of stepping up and taking him out. This game closely resembles Dance Dance Revolution, and failing can lead to death. Following the sad demise of his brother BTRO (Brandon Berrera), our hero JTRO (Jaston Trost) swears off the game and leaves the scene. How will this land survive? The bums aren’t even around to take care of the ducks! What’s a town with no ducks? You have to admire a story that goes so far off the rails and dives into its premise. This futuristic tale is definitely spoofing the dystopian and sports movie genres. The challenge is keeping this satire entertaining when it’s trying so hard to be awful. It takes a certain kind of viewer to enjoy this unusual movie.
The FP was the second production distributed by Drafthouse Films, who have released Four Lions, Bullhead, and other notable films. It was shot on an extremely low budget, and the Trost brothers don’t spend much time developing the environment. Although it takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, it resembles many small towns that we’d see today. The costumes are a bit different, but the rest is pretty generic. Characters still drive around in cars, shoot guns, and mostly talk the same. Our society’s grown a lot more vulgar and is dominated by white guys trying to be hip-hop stars, so that’s a frightening outlook on the future. Of course, they’re hardly striving for realism within this movie. It’s purposely designed as a lark with over-acting and plenty of silliness. At one party, dancing girls are just standing in a baby pool while a DJ spins music. Another is topless several times in the background for no apparent reason. It’s the goofy behavior that makes this film both entertaining and sort of maddening. The head-scratching moments make it fun yet also sort of grating. There’s a definite charm to the utter seriousness to the dancing game, which makes even the most macho guys look ridiculous. The directors purposely choose that contest and then enact devices (cage match!) to enhance the absurdity. I expect it was hard for anyone to keep a straight face while shooting this material.
The best moments involve the many references to the Rocky films, particularly the great Rocky III. The villain even resembles Mr. T and tries to speak with his unabashed confidence. There are two lengthy training montages and even a run that closely mirrors the Rocky/Apollo showdown on the beach. While the homage is obvious, it’s hard for me to dislike anything that refers back to the Rocky movies. The fact that much of the training involves JTRO standing in front of a screen and dancing just adds to the appeal. I don’t have the same excitement for the love story, which keeps following the same pattern. Stacy (Caitlyn Folley) chats with our hero and seems ready to hook up, then quickly leaves when her father or L Dubba E arrives. The bad guy’s treatment of women is so over the top that it’s painful even though it’s designed that way. I recognize the satire in creating the nastiest villain ever, but it becomes too much at times. Sporting giant gold teeth and speaking every line with scenery-chewing vigor, Valmassy has a blast depicting the ultimate brute. Watching the DVD interviews, it’s hard to believe it’s even the same guy on the screen.
Reviewing a movie like The FP is nearly impossible because it sets out to be bad. It’s stupid and strives for the bottom of the scale. The final shot of JTRO’s ultimate reward from his girl provides a clear reminder of the chosen genre. It’s a deliberately trashy movie that leaps energetically into the muck. While much of it doesn’t work, there’s a vitality in this attempt that makes it not so bad. I’d rather re-watch this movie than plenty of “serious” fare that aims for something higher. The absurdity is what keeps it watchable, though there are limits to this approach. The end result is a mixed bag of fun and painful material that is going to alienate a lot of viewers. Leave your hopes for subtle and witty humor at the door.