'The Strip'

A semi-serious comedy about employees at a third-rate strip-mall electronics store.

Clearly a learning experience for all involved, “The Strip” pairs a first-time writer-director (Jameel Khan) with an at times visibly lost young cast for a semi-serious comedy about employees at a third-rate strip-mall electronics store. It’s certainly an unusual movie, aiming more often than not for pathos rather than pratfalls while nonetheless maintaining a slapstick tone, but it remains resolutely unmemorable. Commercial prospects look dim for its 11-city release today, though a few inspired moments point to better things for the pic’s talent in the future.

A competent camera-wielder, Khan has assembled a cast of characters worthy of several small indie films, all of whom toil at the same Circuit City knockoff in suburban Illinois. There’s Glenn (Dave Foley), the sad-sack store manager on the verge of a midlife crisis; Kyle (Rodney Scott), a profoundly bland twentysomething in love with the local Manic Pixie Dream Girl; a meathead/mama’s boy (Cory Christmas) with dreams of becoming an actor; a sweetly dim man-child (Billy Aaron Brown) who lives in his van and begins an affair with Glenn’s long-neglected wife; and a Pakistani immigrant (Federico Dordei) on the verge of an arranged marriage. All play out their individual dramas around each other, and even against each other, yet they rarely seem to be part of the same film.

Perhaps the pic’s scattershot nature can be blamed on first-time jitters, as Khan tries so hard to make sure there’s always something occurring onscreen that he never lets the audience know which of these are meant to be significant. The worst mistake, however, is the decision to draft Kyle as the pic’s protagonist. The son of a regional manager for the electronics store chain in question, Kyle is being groomed by his overbearing father for a management position, while his free-spirited girlfriend (Jenny Wade) urges him to quit his job and follow his bliss. Hardly the stuff of great drama, and Scott’s lifeless performance diminishes it further.

“Kids in the Hall” alum Foley has some touching moments, and Brown is very funny as a kindergarten-level intellect trying to negotiate the intricacies of adult relationships and finance, but the rest of the cast could have used some serious coaching.

Film looks and sounds fine, if unremarkable, which perfectly suits its fluorescent-lighted milieu.

The Strip

Production

A Truly Indie release of a Bata Films production. Produced by Jameel Khan. Executive producer, Jay Khan. Co-producer, Rich Lederer. Directed, written by Jameel Khan.

Crew

Camera (color), Pete Biagi; editor, Peck Prior; music, John Swihart; music supervisor, Jameel Khan; production designer, Merje Veski; costume designer, Emma Potter; supervising sound editor, Bryen Hensley; associate producers, Ben Davis, Rodney Scott; assistant director, Richard Lederer; casting, Beverly Holloway. Reviewed at the Landmark, Los Angeles, Nov. 18, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Dave Foley, Rodney Scott, Billy Aaron Brown, Federico Dordei, Jenny Wade, Cory Christmas, Noreen DeWulf, Chelcie Ross.
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