"It's All Gone Pete Tong" was hyped at Toronto as "Spinal Tap" for the rave/electronica scene. A good idea, but film doesn't address it. Instead, this U.K.-Canada co-production spends half its length on a superstar DJ protag's caricatured but depressing downward spiral before turning into an oddly sweet romance-cum-inspirational-fantasy.

“It’s All Gone Pete Tong” was hyped at Toronto as “Spinal Tap” for the rave/electronica scene. A good idea, but film doesn’t address it. Instead, this U.K.-Canada co-production from the director of Canadian cult comedy “Fubar” spends half its length on a superstar DJ protag’s caricatured but depressing downward spiral before turning into an oddly sweet romance-cum-inspirational-fantasy. Given its most obvious selling point turns out a blind alley, this colorful, sometimes endearing but highly uneven pic looks set for rocky theatrical roads in various territories. Ancillary sales should be marginally smoother.

Framed by mockdoc sequences in which music scenesters (including some real-life DJs) discuss the mystery of protag’s disappearance, story starts in earnest with turntablist Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye) on top of the world a year earlier. He’s the party drug of choice for hedonistic youth each holiday season in Ibiza, where he lives extravagantly in a villa with trophy wife Sonia (Kate Magowan) and a barely noticed stepson.

Frankie has also just crossed over successfully into actually making records.

But there’s a sudden major glitch. Years spent in deafeningly loud environments have taken their toll, leaving Frankie’s hearing shot. The good times over, wife and stepson promptly jump ship. Frankie is left alone in his villa, severe depression further racheting up already monumental booze/drug habits.

All this occupies the film’s first hour, which despite frequent gestures toward lifestyles-of-the-rich-famous-and-stoned satire (plus some spectacularly rude/crude language) is a sustained downer. Frankie has spat or upchucked on half a dozen people before the opening credits are done. He’s such a substance-abusive basket case from the start that there’s nowhere for lead thesp’s performance to go. Pic should have spent far more time parodying the high life, and less dwelling on his self-destructive spinout.

Fortunately, Frankie hires Penelope (Beatriz Batarda), a deaf woman who’s beautiful, patient, tough, single, and likes a stiff drink too, as his lip-reading instructor. Their courtship, as she helps Frankie discover a new way of life lets pic summon some genuine charm. Sophomore helmer Michael Dowse manages a particularly deft transitional montage that begins with Frankie discovering the musical properties of vibration (from a flamenco dancer), segues into lead duo’s first lovemaking, and goes on as Frankie re-connects with the dance rhythms he’d thought were lost to him.

“Pete Tong” (title is a Brit catchphrase for losing one’s grip) moves fast and looks a treat, with production design and widescreen lensing taking their tip from both Ibiza setting and the Day-Glo nightclub milieu.

Soundtrack, natch, pulses with well-chosen dance tracks. But sensory diversions only distract so much from fact that there’s too little real hilarity here. Helmer’s own script feels unfocused and semi-improvisational, with good ideas that should’ve been taken further, and some not-so-good ones that overstay their welcome.

Tech aspects are all high-grade.

It's All Gone Pete Tong

U.K.-Canada

Production

An Alliance Atlantis and Odeon Films presentation of a Vertigo Films in association with True West Films production. Produced by Allan Niblo, James Richardson, Elizabeth Yake. Executive producers, Rob Morgan, Rupert Preston, Kim Roberts. Directed, written by Michael Dowse.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Balasz Bolygo; editor, Stuart Gazzard; music, Graham Massey; music supervisor, Lol Hammond; production designer, Paul Burns;art director, Emily Straight; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael A. McCann; assistant director, Jamie MacDermot. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Canada First!), Sept. 12, 2004. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Frankie Wilde - Paul Kaye Penelope - Beatriz Batarda Max Hagger - Mike Wilmot Horst - Dave Lawrence Alfonse - Paul J. Spence Sonia - Kate Magowan
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