A self-described "slacker/buddy" movie about two mismatched security guards posted at the grave of a rock idol, "Colin Fitz" is an amiable but fitful attempt at mixing comedy and social comment. Very funny moments come interspersed with too many flat notes and unintended longueurs, making even the relatively short feature feel overextended.

A self-described “slacker/buddy” movie about two mismatched security guards posted at the grave of a rock idol, “Colin Fitz” is an amiable but fitful attempt at mixing comedy and social comment. Very funny moments come interspersed with too many flat notes and unintended longueurs, making even the relatively short feature feel overextended. Despite appealing performers and able work by debuting helmer Robert Bella, pic may have trouble lifting beyond festival circuit to reach the collegiate and arthouse auds that are its natural constituency.

Tale’s opening, one of pic’s funniest scenes, has the ever-engaging William H. Macy as a security firm head giving the evening’s assignment to two young guards who obviously come from very different gene pools. Grady (Andy Fowle) is a burly, bluff cynic with a penchant for beer and pop-culture philosophizing. Paul (Matt McGrath), an even unlikelier private cop, is handsome and defensively romantic, a poet in a milieu that has no use for them. The two are assigned to guard the grave of Colin Fitz, a rock star who died on this day some years before, for a reason they don’t learn until they’re in the cemetery and the sun has set: The year previous, several fans committed suicide at the site.

That ghoulish history notwithstanding, the duo seem most daunted by the prospect of boredom and each other’s company. Grady brings along a 12-pack of beer against the boss’s orders, and begins regaling Paul with his daffy theories, such as the historical changes that would have occurred had Buddy Holly taken LSD.Scripter Tom Morrissey’s flair for character and dialogue are such that some of these exchanges are flat-out hilarious, at least to those who know the reference points. What’s lacking, it soon emerges, is a plot to keep the funny talk moving forward in a way that makes dramatic sense rather than feeling contrived.

While “Clerks” is one of its obvious models, “Colin Fitz” never quite equals the Kevin Smith film in making the focus on a single setting come across as natural instead of constrictive. As in the work of other young writers, the script stays on the surface and simply gets busier, a la sitcoms: Grady runs off in pursuit of the girlfriend who recently dumped him; Paul stays put and faces a stream of not always probable interlopers.Still, that the pic sustains to the extent it does is a tribute to Bella’s fluid direction and the solid, agreeable work of the leads. McGrath’s Paul has a convincing naivete to match his dreamy looks, while Fowle’s Grady nicely balances obnoxiousness and daffy likability. Supporting perfs are led by Macy’s wonderful turn as the guards’ boss.

The low-budgeter’s tech credits are impressively realized across the board.

Colin Fitz

Production

A Baby Shark Inc. and River One Films presentation. Produced by Robert Bella, Thomas J. Mangan IV. Co-producers, Patricia Wolff, Tom Razzano. Directed by Robert Bella. Screenplay, Tom Morrissey.

Crew

Camera (color), Henry Cline; editor, Susan Graef; music, Pat Irwin; production design, Gary Levinson; costume design, Kaye Voyce; associate producers, William E. Githens, Desiree Jellerette, Mary McCann, Jodi Peikoff; casting, Heather Baird. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 19, 1997. Running time: 85 min.

With

Groundskeeper - John C. McGinley
Paul Matt - Matt McGrath
Mr. O'Day - William H. Macy
Grady - Andy Fowle
Justice Fitz - Julianne Phillips
Pepe - Robert Bella
Todd - Will McCormack
Dean - Erik Jensen
Ann - Martha Plimpton
Moira - Mary McCormack
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