'Bob Funk'

With a title like "Bob Funk," anything is possible, and an anything-goes manner appears to guide writer-director Craig Carlisle's patchwork comedy about a bitter, caustic and very drunk futon salesman who barely avoids self-destruction.

With a title like “Bob Funk,” anything is possible, and an anything-goes manner appears to guide writer-director Craig Carlisle’s patchwork comedy about a bitter, caustic and very drunk futon salesman who barely avoids self-destruction. The visible cribbing from “The Office” (the American version), “Office Space,” “Bartleby,” “The Sopranos” and even “The Apartment” suggests the various and conflicting comic and noncomic influences in a movie struggling to get a grip on its toxic central character. Theatrical water-cooler visit will be brief, but vid overtime should bring in coin.

So aggressively hostile to his customers that it’s a wonder he wasn’t fired from Funk Foam & Futon long before, Bob (Michael Leydon Campbell, for whom the pic is virtually an acting platform) is dumped by his boss — who also happens to be his mother (Grace Zabriskie, in keen, elegant form). This happens after he’s learned young Ms. Thorne (Rachael Leigh Cook, directed to be as cute as possible) is possibly being groomed to replace him as sales veep in the family biz, which also includes subservient brother Ron (Eddie Jemison, who’s sweaty in a funny way).

After Ron urges him to reason with Mom, Bob agrees to a probationary period as a sales tracker, even as he seems to spend more time than ever in the local bar talking smack with barkeep Smiley (the always impressive Ron Canada) or trying to hit on women.

It’s the inevitable downward spiral for Bob, despite visits to a shrink (Terri Mann) and the friendly ear of Ms. Thorne, whose klutziness supposedly puts both lonelyhearts on an even playing field. Bob’s funk stems from the bad end of an eight-year marriage, and it seems nothing less than a three-day bender, a visit to AA and a demotion by Mom all the way to janitor will stir him from his stupor.

Carlisle’s film is designed with a certain suburban flatness that at times perfectly reflects Bob’s inner deadness, though not his periodic spurts of sarcastic rage. Production designer April Glover’s interiors, along with the occasional appearances of actor Stephen Root, directly recalls the absurdly prefab feeling of “Office Space.” But, indicative of the pic’s confused state, several shots also indicate that it’s set close to downtown Los Angeles. Emotionally, the film is just as often all over the map.

This is a cast so chockfull with talent that even the arrival of Amy Ryan (whose spiky character is ironically named Ms. Wright) may hardly go noticed by some auds, though, like every actor here, she has her choice moments. Campbell has more than a few himself, but he also displays a troubling habit of showing off for the camera.

Clearly made on a severe budget, “Bob Funk” usually turns cheapness into a visual virtue, though Lisa Wiegand’s lensing can lapse from time to time into excessive brightness.

Bob Funk

Production

A Cinema Epoch release of a Unified Pictures presentation. Produced by Keith Kjarval, Kurt Rauer, Tim Montijo. Executive producer, Ben Ruffman. Co-producers, Greg Lombardo, Michael Schroeder, Jonathan Jansen. Co-executive producer, Teresa L. Mann. Directed, written by Craig Carlisle.

Crew

Camera (Fotokem color, Deluxe prints, widescreen), Lisa Wiegand; editor, Josh Beal; music, Tim Montijo; music supervisor, Liz Gallacher CQ; production designer, April Glover; set decorator, Stephanie Furr; costume designer, Vanessa King; sound (Dolby Digital), Lee Ascher; re-recording mixer, Montijo; associate producer, Steve Goldstein; assistant director, Alex Korp; casting, Kathleen Black. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Feb. 22, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Michael Leydon Campbell, Rachael Leigh Cook, Grace Zabriskie, Amy Ryan, Eddie Jemison, Stephen Root, Alex Desert, Ron Canada, Lucy Davis, Nadia Dajani, Terri Mann.
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