In sharp contrast to many arty Canadian indie pics, Gary Burns' "Kitchen Party" serves up a cinematic meal that's heavy on the sort of adolescent comedy more often seen in such American films as "Wayne's World" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Although Burns stumbles when he tries to add some darker shading in the second half, for the most part this is a remarkably funny slice of teen-angst filmmaking that should elicit interest from specialized U.S. distribs.

In sharp contrast to many arty Canadian indie pics, Gary Burns’ “Kitchen Party” serves up a cinematic meal that’s heavy on the sort of adolescent comedy more often seen in such American films as “Wayne’s World” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Although Burns stumbles when he tries to add some darker shading in the second half, for the most part this is a remarkably funny slice of teen-angst filmmaking that should elicit interest from specialized U.S. distribs.

All the same, pic might well be caught between two audiences, with arthouse crowds less than crazy about its broad-appeal comedy, and mainstream auds possibly turned off by the low-budget production values. Those who make it past their preconceptions will almost certainly be pleased by this original, witty rock ‘n’ roll comedy of teen manners.

Story is built around two very different parties, one featuring the kids and one across town, where the kids’ parents are celebrating. Scott (Scott Speedman) is the guy hosting the kitchen party, so-called because his parents have made it clear that the rest of the house, which is spotlessly clean, is strictly off-limits. So Scott and his pals begin drinking and chitchatting in their designated party space, while Scott’s mysterious, antisocial brother, Steve (Jason Wiles), listens to loud rock music down in the basement.

At the other end of town, Scott’s parents and two other couples are also in party mode, and their dinner is even more of a drunken affair than their kids’ bash. Les Jr. (Dave Cox), whose parents are at the grown-up party, has a series of fender-benders outside the liquor store, while his dad (Jerry Wasserman) gets into a fight with Scott’s father, Brent (Kevin McNulty), when Brent suggests that Les Jr. may be gay.

Soon enough, events take a turn for the worse at both parties. The parents start bickering with increasing bitterness, and the younger demo’s fiesta is disrupted when Scott’s g.f., Tammy (Laura Harris), takes off with Scott’s arch rival, brother Steve.

Burns, whose first feature, “The Suburbanators,” covered similar turf, has a keen eye for the strange customs and social codes of suburban kids, and much of the humor in the writing comes from his dead-on depiction of these ordinary teenagers. The parents’ get-together also gives Burns an opportunity to deliver some top-notch comic dialogue, though the older characters are less finely drawn than their younger counterparts.

Perfs are fairly good throughout, though no one thesp stands out. Lensing emphasizes a generic suburban landscape, and Douglas Hardwick’s art direction effectively creates the quintessential pre-fab, faceless home in Scott’s house. Soundtrack features a slew of low-fi alternative rock acts.

Kitchen Party

(CANADIAN)

Production

A Cineplex Odeon Films release (in Canada) of a Sub Urban Film Co. production. (International sales: Sub Urban Film Co., Vancouver.) Produced by Christine Haebler, John Hazlett. Executive producers, James Head, Scott Kennedy. Directed, written by Gary Burns. Camera (color), Robert Aschmann; editors, Mark Lemmon, Reginald Harkema; music, Schaun Tozer; art direction, Douglas Hardwick; associate producer, Karen Powell. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 6, 1997. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Scott ..... Scott Speedman Tammy ..... Laura Harris Barb ..... Gillian Barber Brent ..... Kevin McNulty Wayne ..... Tygh Runyan Cynthia ..... Sarah Strange Steve ..... Jason Wiles
With: Michelle Skalnik, A.J. Bond, Dave Cox, James McBurney, Jenafor Ryane, Joelle Thomas, Jerry Wasserman, Marie Stillin, Tom McBeath, Tasmin Kelsey, Marc Petey, Ryan Petey.
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