Published Apr 30, 2009If you struggle just to say a film's title, chances are it's unlikely to reward your embarrassment. Sure, there are a few special cases (most of the James Bond films, Hoosiers) but for the most part, any movie whose name alone engenders a sense of mild humiliation won't be good. Bart Got A Room, the debut feature from writer/director Brian Hecker, is no exception.
The next in an already insufferable batch of the post-Napoleon Dynamite film comedies that forgo funniness in favour of stylized quirkiness, Bart follows terminally nerdy teen Danny Stein (newcomer Steven J. Kaplan) in his quest for that holiest of high school holies: a prom date.
The film's trajectory is as humdrum as its would-be hero, chronicling Danny's predictable foibles as he mistakes platonic relationships for romance, seeks the advice of his divorced parents (Cheryl Hines and William H. Macy) and chubby best friend (YouTube "sensation" Brandon Hardesty), and tries his darndest not to settle on his long-time gal pal (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat).
The pressure to secure a suitably compatible partner increases tenfold when Danny realizes that the school's biggest loser, the titular Bart (Chad Jamain Williams), has secured not only a date but a post-prom hotel room.
Kaplan is endearing enough, although the whole "awkward charm" thing is wearing a bit thin in general, but his vacant nonchalance sets the tone for the entire film. Like Danny, Bart's aesthetic is defined by a range of stucco beiges and washed-out pastels, which while perhaps approximating the film's Florida backdrop, does little to detract from its feel as an ugly, ersatz colouring book version of real life.
Again, taking his cues from a film like Napoleon Dynamite, Hecker's camera lingers over the blotchy, bloated, liver-spotted bodies of a bunch of cartoonishly unsightly senior citizens, taking a stab at comically grotesque realism that mostly comes across as mean-spirited.
All this would be forgivable if Bart was funny but it's not. Despite the sly veneer of fashionable idiosyncrasy, the jokes are as adolescent as the film's thematic concerns. Unless the sight of seeing Macy and Hines in goofy wigs, or jokes about tanning and Chinese people are up your alley there's nothing for you here.
We're supposed to laugh at a father calling his son an "ass man" or a hunched 70something saying the phrase "lost my virginity," but instead we again feel embarrassed — not for Kaplan's sympathetic Danny but for Hecker. (Anchor Bay)