Friday, September 23, 2016

Moments Do Not Save The Inconsistent Flock Of Dudes.

The Good: Some humorous lines, Moments of performance
The Bad: Predictable plot progression, Inconsistent character direction for the protagonist, Long periods of mediocrity
The Basics: Flock Of Dudes features a man sort-of trying to change his life to win a bet in an ultimately unimpressive comedy.

One of the aspects of the two months between Summer Blockbuster Season and the traditional Oscar Pandering Season for cinematic releases that I enjoy is that for two months, virtually anything is possible in movie releases. September and October see a pretty massive dump of films to the marketplace as major studios throw out their early Oscarbait, horror films and their low-publicity imprints (the major studio departments that allow them to think they still have any credibility in the "indie film" world) and they compete with indie films and all of the projects that could not cut it the rest of the year . . . but the studios did not want to wait until the February Dump to release. As a result, this is a time of year when writers and directors see some of their work hit theaters in a pretty massive push and so it is for the feature film debut of writer/director Bob Castrone with Flock Of Dudes.

Flock Of Dudes is an independent film comedy starring Chris D'Elia and, more than being known as Castrone's directoral film, is probably getting more press for being the project Lea Michele bowed out of in the wake of Cory Monteith's death. Michele was replaced with Hilary Duff and Castrone soldiered on. I sat down to Flock Of Dudes with fairly low expectations given that the last thing I saw D'Elia in was XOXO (reviewed here!) and he was pretty much lost in the ensemble cast; having D'Elia at the head of a similarly large cast was not a selling point. The moment Peri Gilpin appeared on screen as Adam's mother (Chris D'Elia's character) after the opening credits, D'Elia was already upstaged.

Adam, Barrett, David, Howie and Mook go out on a pub crawl and end up on a barcycle. Adam misses a date with his girlfriend Katherine on their anniversary when he was supposed to have dinner with her parents. Following their break-up, the guys are at a party for their Fu-Manchu-oose-Your-Own-Adventure when Katherine appears, dating Mario Lopez. David is moving on with his life by proposing to his lawyer girlfriend and moving out of the guy's bachelor pad. After their Halloween party, at which the guys are evicted from their house, Adam seems to wake up to their unsatisfying college-like lifestyle.

David writes up a break-up contract for the four guys. Adam, Barrett, Howie, and Mook are challenged to spend six months apart from one another, figuring out their lives. The carrot is a cool house, the stick are a series of consequences like a "jack and jill" party in lieu of David having a bachelor party and a cash bar at his wedding. Adam moves in with David and David's fiance, Amanda, and starts dressing better for work, which gets him the attention of the boss at work. As he avoids his old friends, Adam starts a healthier relationship with his co-worker, Beth. Adam starts to blog and figure out his life, purposely getting fired and pursuing his dreams.

Flock Of Dudes is a very guy-centric comedy, as one might expect. The men live together and some work together at the National Lacrosse League. The guys live in their own filth, declare vengeance on one another (sending a bouquet of vibrators to Adam's work), hit on anything that moves and spend most of their time drinking. But Chris putting his foot down is handled very inconsistently; Chris does not say "no" to the absolutely incompatible, crazy woman who comes home with him. In putting their lives in order, the film has Chris growing and regressing in very inconsistent ways that make it a very erratic narrative.

Bob Castrone and his cowriters have some good lines in Flock Of Dudes, but they are not enough to make a compelling film. Chris's "break-up" speech is pretty funny - especially the realization that he does not have a dentist and, as an adult, ought to. Mook's reaction to seeing Adam at work the first time after the break-up is funny and sets the tone for much of the rest of Flock Of Dudes. Flock Of Dudes turns into a "fish out of water" comedy as Chris goes from being a ridiculous partier to being straightlaced. But "straightlaced" in Flock Of Dudes still has the thirty year-old Adam playing kickball with his company against other local businesses. In a similar fashion, while Chris is avoiding his friend Barrett, his coworker Jamie tries to use him as a source for information (they dated and he is no longer returning Jamie's many calls). But instead of being straightforward with Jamie about his lack of a relationship with Barrett and exactly what Barrett is doing to Jamie, he continues to cover for his friend. As a result, the fish never seems quite out of water; Chris's drunken epiphany does not lead to a substantive internal change.

D'Elia plays straightlaced fine, especially opposite Brett Gelman's ridiculous performance as Howie. The moment he hits his potential in playing Adam is off Bryan Greenberg's Barrett asking him for advice on how to deal with his burgeoning relationship with Beth. D'Elia has an earnest quality in that scene that plays well and illustrates the lost potential of Flock Of Dudes.

So many films where characters attempt to change their lives suffer because the characters make such gigantic changes far too quickly; Flock Of Dudes does not go far enough fast enough or in a clear, compelling, way. Adam changes his clothes . . . briefly, but continues to slouch through life. While Adam changes his outfit, he does not shave, but suddenly his boss notices him and starts striking up a conversation with him?! The moments Flock Of Dudes tries to explore the nature of changing one's life, it actually works - Adam trying to be honest with Beth or actually reaching out to a friend for substantive advice - but too often, the film goes for the cheap laugh or the obvious "easy out" of a situation. After having an honest conversation with Beth, Adam reaches out to the most horrible character in the film to hang out and it doesn't even feel like a relapse; it just feels like a terrible plot or character direction.

The cast of Flock Of Dudes does generally well. Skylar Astin seems more out of place than the rest of the cast, delivering almost all of his lines as if he is doing a bit. While it might initially seem like a writing problem, it is Astin overselling his lines with an over-eager performance that reminds the viewer of a comedian doing a shtick. The main cast of Chris D'Elia, Bryan Greenberg, Brett Gelman, and Eric Andre plays off one another with a pretty natural chemistry, which fits their characters having a long-term dynamic. The supporting cast featuring Hannah Simone, Marc Maron, and Melissa Rauch manages to steal most of the scenes they are in.

Flock Of Dudes tries to make changing one's life seem utterly craptastic. The "jack and jill" party is presented as the world's lamest party before the bachelor party falls flat as well. Changing sucks, staying the same suck, too, in Flock Of Dudes.

Bob Castrone directs Flock Of Dudes fine, but in an unremarkable way. There are no particularly distinctive visuals in Flock Of Dudes and the inevitable montage sequence comes far too late for viewers to care about how the people in it are changing. And there is something flat-out disturbing about seeing Hannah Simone's Beth looking like a supermodel (no perspiration, not a hair out of place) after playing kickball.

Ultimately, Flock Of Dudes is inconsistent on every front, making it hard to invest in or enjoy even though it is short enough that anyone can sit through it.

For other movies currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Cardboard Boxer
Other People
The Whole Truth
Pete's Dragon
Suicide Squad


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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