Name cast struggles valiantly to infuse vitality into smug high concept parable about business and ethics among dotcomers. Sterile, uniformly lit hi-def imagery even makes real Gotham streets look like dead-end sets. Multi-generational star power should spur cable deal, but theatrical prospects appear remote.

Name cast struggles valiantly to infuse vitality into “2B Perfectly Honest,” a smug high concept parable about business and ethics among dotcomers. But sterile, uniformly lit hi-def imagery even makes real Gotham streets look like dead-end sets. Each scene comes equipped with a built-in ironic disconnect which makes it feel like it could be placed earlier or later in the sequence. This is unfortunate, since “2B” employs a stories-within-stories structure that builds to a whimsically dream-like, illogical payoff –some initial grounding in consecutive time and space would have helped. Multi-generational star power should spur cable deal, but theatrical prospects appear remote.

Front-man Frank (Adam Trese) and long-haired “brains of the outfit” Josh (Andrew McCarthy) try to cope with the untimely demise of their dotcom. Frank moves home with his mom (a sadly underutilized Haley Mills) and dad (Robert Vaughn, utilized to the hilt as virtually the only believable representative of the corporate world). In a nod toward characterization, tyro helmer/scripter Randel Cole saddles each parent with an all-defining foible, so Mom’s sole mission in life is to cook high-cholesterol meals, while Dad falls asleep on the sofa and wakes up denying it.

Frank strides into offbeat offices and shady steam rooms to meet potential money men for his new venture: selling ad space on defunct Web sites. When not fundraising, Frank drops in on hookah-smoking chess maven John Turturro, who effortlessly steals the show (though a later improbable plot twist that transforms Turturro into a mad mafioso type is a pure waste of time and talent).

John’s sister Aida moonlights from “The Sopranos” to show up as Frank’s love interest, a sushi-eating wizard and shop owner in one version of the film’s story, a sushi-hating paramedic in another.

About a third of the way into pic, it turns out that Josh, his hair now regulation length, is in fact recounting this very narrative to his son while he and his wife await the arrival of their second child. Meanwhile, back at the plot-within-the-plot, Frank has hooked up with some sinister waste management moguls. As Josh and Frank’s integrity, thin at best, fades into cowardice, “2B” progresses from odd to weird to flat-out unbelievable under the influence of nightmares and heart attacks.

McCarthy’s nerdy Josh showcases the actor’s customary bemused outsider charm, but Trese’s man-about-town Frank remains boringly self-satisfied even in his desperation. Tech credits are undistinguished.

2B Perfectly Honest

Production

A 2B Pictures and ZAM Entertainment production. Produced by Jeff Mazzola, John Scaccia. Directed, written by Randel Cole.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Christopher LaVasseur; editor, Ray Hubley; music, Jason Frederick; production designer, Amy Forman; costume designer, Amy Richtings; sound (Dolby Digital), Paul Vazquez; casting, Caroline Sinclair. Reviewed at Tribeca Cinema, New York, April 27, 2004. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- NY, NY.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Adam Trese, Andrew McCarthy, John Turturro, Aida Turturro, Robert Vaughn, Hayley Mills, Michael Badalucco, Bruce MacVittie.
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