The considerable smarts of several adept comic character thesps aren't enough to salvage "Surviving Eden," a flighty and unnecessary send-up of reality television. As in his 2003 feature "Dummy," featuring Adrien Brody as a dim-bulb ventriloquist, writer-director Greg Pritikin exhibits a certain unembarrassed, free-associating goofiness.

The considerable smarts of several adept comic character thesps aren’t enough to salvage “Surviving Eden,” a flighty and unnecessary send-up of reality television. As in his 2003 feature “Dummy,” featuring Adrien Brody as a dim-bulb ventriloquist, writer-director Greg Pritikin exhibits a certain unembarrassed, free-associating goofiness, but the prevailing soft-mindedness and lack of substance, coupled with sub-TV production values, earmark “Eden” for the purgatory of vid shelves.

As with “Dummy,” which provided initial exposure to Vera Farmiga’s talent, new pic is notable almost exclusively for its top-notch casting; Pritikin’s wearisome account of the perils of unlikely reality show success for an overweight convenience store employee is enlivened by stellar work by the likes of Peter Dinklage, Savannah Haske, Conchata Ferrell and, especially, the scene-stealing Jane Lynch and irrepressible Cheri Oteri. As the unassuming protag, Michael Panes, in his long black hair and specs, amusingly resembles Peter Sellers in “What’s New, Pussycat?” Pic’s epigraph, attributed to Napoleon — “Fame is fleeting … but obscurity is forever,” — is certainly one all reality show contestants can take to heart.

Surviving Eden

Production

A Cineville presentation of a Picture Entertainment Corp. production in association with Honest Engine Films. Produced by Lisa Larrivee. Executive producers, Carl Colpaert, Lee Caplin. Co-producers, Joanne Giovannini Storkan, Michael Panes. Directed, written by Greg Pritikin, based on a screenplay by Joanne Giovannini Storkan.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Frederic Goodich; editor, Michael Palmerio; music, Pritikin; production designer, Matt Myhall; costume designer, Carol Cutshall. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Feb. 3, 2005. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Michael Panes, Cheri Oteri, Jane Lynch, Sam Robards, Savannah Haske, Peter Dinklage, John Landis, Conchata Ferrell, Kentaro Abe, Gary Rosen, Jackie Katzman.
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