First-time helmer Sean Anders' "Never Been Thawed" targets a wide range of sitting ducks. But pic's satire is greatly mitigated by the fact that none of the characters takes his or her obsessions truly seriously. Scattershot slacker comedy comes off as lame and unfocused as its draggy <I>dramatis personae</I>.

First-time helmer Sean Anders’ “Never Been Thawed” targets a wide range of sitting ducks. Mockumentary acknowledges no sacred (but many mad) cows: obsessed frozen food collectors, Christian punk rockers, a “No Choice Cafe” catering exclusively to abortion clinic protestors. But pic’s satire is greatly mitigated by the fact that none of the characters takes his or her obsessions truly seriously. Closer in tone to “Clerks” than “Best in Show,” scattershot slacker comedy, in limited rollout starting Oct. 7 at Gotham’s Cinema Village, comes off as lame and unfocused as its draggy dramatis personae.

Anders develops the basic premise that gives pic its title and loose structure — the existence of a group of fanatical frozen food aficionados whose addiction costs them as much in electricity bills as it does in trade money for vintage Swanson entrees (the script’s variables of packaging and foodstuffs are admittedly ingenious). But neither the writing nor the lensing are sharp enough to carry the gag beyond the initial guffaw, frozen dinners not being the most visual or slapstick-prone of culinary mediums.

The Christian rockers are likewise a one-shot concept since they are not the real McCoys, but merely opportunistic punkers who replace the word “fuck” with the word “pray” in their lyrics in a bid to increase record sales. Their manager opens a pro-choice cafe, complete with plastic fetus-topped swizzle-sticks (waved at the camera at every opportunity), not as a true reflection of pro-life zealotry but purely as a savvy business venture.

Taking cheap shots at a fake religious right virtually advertises pic’s own pointlessness, particularly when there are no thesps visible anywhere on-screen (cast was strictly amateur) who are even remotely capable of giving the breath of life to Anders’ limp, sarcastic effigies.

The fact that the helmer casts himself as the most pathetic and self-delusional of the lot does not help the humor very much, which maintains a consistent sophomoric level of easy potshots throughout (the “William Jefferson Clinton Abstinence Center” — get it?). Gag-heavy pic does attempt to make up in quantity what it lacks in quality, but “Thawed” is strictly for those who find the idea of making fun of something as satisfying as actually making something funny.

Never Been Thawed

Production

A Slippery Chicken, Netflix production. Produced by Chuck LeVinus. Executive producers, Gregg Ghelfi, Evan Astrowsky. Directed by Sean Anders. Screenplay, Anders, Chuck Le Vinus, John Morris.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Anders, various; music, Thomas Laufenberg, Morris, Anders; sound, Laufenberg. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Sept. 28, 2005. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Allen Zwolle, Sean Anders, Shelly Frasier, John Morris, John Angelo, Mike Gordon, Scott Isham, Charles Arnold.
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