Roller Town Andrew Bush
Published Sep 20, 2012Despite being cancelled after its first 13-episode season, the Halifax-based sketch comedy series Picnicface had some genuinely funny moments. Although they were few and far between, and there were far more misses than hits, some of the more surreal, random inserts suggested dormant comic abilities needing a bit of breathing space to thrive.
Much like MTV's The State, which followed up its television demise with the feature-length '80s-throwback satire Wet Hot American Summer, this somewhat less talented troupe has changed mediums with Roller Town, which, as the title implies, finds comedy in the disco era.
Using little stylistic embellishment beyond costume and cheap musical number inserts, this satire of the social change admonitory places itself smack dab in the middle of the roller-skating and videogame generations, featuring a roller-skating protagonist (Mark Little) trying to save a roller rink from becoming a video arcade. Noting the tropes of the era, this roller-skating dance enthusiast falls in love with town hottie Julia (Kayla Lorette), who is incidentally dating his nemesis, Davis (Scott Vrooman), and is the daughter of the town mayor.
For the most part, the story is played straight, expecting to generate comedy through sheer hilarity of homage absurdity. But because everything is so staged and scripted, every joke feels rehearsed and forced, which is exacerbated by the lethargic framing and lack of understanding of how to heighten the comic effect of any given moment.
While virtually every joke falls flat, such as a protracted sequence where Leo (Little) receives numerous phone calls telling him he wasn't accepted into a roller-skating program at a prestigious school, some things that could have been funny ― a sex scene while roller skating or a gag about having sex with corn ― are ruined by sheer tone and composition. Even the musical numbers, where they sing about it being "fuck o'clock" or "half-past pussy," fall flat since they're presented more so as cheap high school improv than actual film inserts.
Really, the only good thing about the feature film debut of Picnicface is that it's really, really short. (D Films)