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A More Perfect Union

Stephen and Ari Sheinkin's "A More Perfect Union" is an amiable shaggy-dog comedy about four aimless, over-educated twentysomethings who decide to secede from the United States and declare their rented house an independent nation. Filmed in Austin on an extremely modest budget, rough-edged pic is a natural for the fest circuit and may do respectable business in college-town bookings.

With:
Browning ... Adam Wilhite AK ... Ben Pascoe Stu ... Michael Dalmon Stephan ... Robert Cyrus Ryland Mr. Teedy ... Donald Sneed

Stephen and Ari Sheinkin’s “A More Perfect Union” is an amiable shaggy-dog comedy about four aimless, over-educated twentysomethings who decide to secede from the United States and declare their rented house an independent nation. Filmed in Austin on an extremely modest budget, rough-edged pic is a natural for the fest circuit and may do respectable business in college-town bookings.

By unfortunate coincidence, the opening scene is strikingly similar to the beginning of “Shallow Grave.” Three smart-alecky, self-satisfied roommates are looking for a fourth person to share the rent, and are sarcastically unimpressed while interviewing a dimwitted prospect. The scene is funny enough, but goes on too long.

“Perfect Union” picks up considerably with the introduction of AK (Ben Pascoe), a former child actor on a once-popular TV sitcom. AK has grown up to be a rebellious and wisecracking Generation X-er who makes his first appearance in a coffeehouse by smashing the cellular phone of a well-dressed yuppie. That sort of spirit immediately endears him to the three roommates.

AK soon joins the household,which includes Browning (Adam Wilhite), a would-be lawyer who works at the county clerk’s office; Stephan (Robert Cyrus Ryland), an underemployed clerk at an Austin historical museum; and Stu (Michael Dalmon), a sardonic know-it-all who never leaves their rented house.

Much of the pic is given over to their amusing but sincere discussions (which sound a lot like frat-house bull sessions) about how to put their revolutionary theories into practice.

All four roomies passionately agree that they should shatter the “slacker” image of self-absorbed Generation X-ers who wallow in their own indolence. Trouble is, they aren’t quite motivated enough to get beyond the planning stages of a revolution.

Brothers Stephen and Ari Sheinkin, performing as writers, editors and co-directors for their debut feature, rely heavily on the polished performances of their four leads to ease the pic through a few dead spots.

Episodic in structure and frequently funny in its extended dialogue riffs, “Perfect Union” often plays like a promising pilot for an MTV sitcom, entertaining and engaging in a low-key fashion.

Pic feels forced only when the roommates decide to kidnap and humiliate the gym teacher (Donald Sneed) who tormented Stephan during his high school days. This triggers an unsatisfying conclusion that is both contrived and anticlimactic.

Tech qualities are average for this level of low-budget filmmaking. Soundtrack features several numbers by noted Austin bands.

A More Perfect Union

(Comedy -- Color)

Production: A Sheinkin Bros. production. Produced by David McCann. Directed, written, editedby Stephen and Ari Sheinkin.

Crew: Camera (color), Adam Joseph; production design, Susan Weinthaler, Keith Donnelly; sound, Brian Shulman; associate producer, Mateo S. Barnstone. Reviewed at South by Southwest Film & Media Conference, Austin, Texas, March 10, 1995. Running time: 105 min.

With: Browning ... Adam Wilhite AK ... Ben Pascoe Stu ... Michael Dalmon Stephan ... Robert Cyrus Ryland Mr. Teedy ... Donald Sneed

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