A Napoleonesque (as in "Dynamite") tale of comic loserdom with a distinctly Canadian flavor.

A Napoleonesque (as in “Dynamite”) tale of comic loserdom with a distinctly Canadian flavor, “You Might as Well Live” reps a promising first-feature collaboration for director Simon Ennis and co-writer/star Joshua Peace. While it’s seldom uproarious, there’s steady amusement in the luckless protag’s rise from universally proclaimed “biggest douchebag” to … well, anything would be an improvement. HD-shot pic, which opened Sept. 4 in Toronto, is a tad slender as theatrical fare but should win fans and offshore sales as an ancillary item.

Correctly convinced that almost everyone in the crappy town of Riverside (locations shot in Hamilton, Ontario) hates him, Robert Mutt (Peace) unsuccessfully attempts to commit suicide by jumping off a very, very low bridge, and is committed to the local asylum.Two years later, we see he’s earned some degree of self-esteem via competitive triumphs in such pursuits as pin-the-tail-on-the-raccoon. When he beats a new staff physician at air hockey, however, the sore loser pronounces him “cured” and chucks him out of the otherwise friendly institution. A still-hostile outside world is made even moreso by the fact that during his absence, nasty neighbor Mr. Steinke (Stephen McHattie) has blamed his own extensive computer collection of child porn on Robert — who has never touched a computer in his life.

The resulting uproar chases the hapless hero from the house of his bedridden mom and aspiring-songbird sister (Kristin Fairlie) to the fetish-playpen manse of a TV weathercaster and, ultimately, the welcoming home of his Farm League baseball hero (Michael Madsen). A roller-disco interlude, as well as a tentative transvestite romance and preparatory bar mitzvah studies, are stopovers to appropriately catatonic happiness.

Though it goes out farther on the gross-out limb in terms of unattractive nudity and drug-related humor than “Napoleon Dynamite” did, “You Might as Well Live” hews to that pic’s model in being more absurdist than crass or slapsticky, and caricaturing without being mean-spirited. Perfs rep a good mix of deadpan and over-the-top, with Peace creating an endearingly pathetic focal point.

A couple of vintage Lee Hazelwood songs and one by Buck Owens are aptly deployed, though the soundtrack standout (duly reprised under closing credits) is “Stormy Blaze,” aka the sister’s hilariously heinous debut single. Production values are modest but nicely turned.

You Might as Well Live

Canada

Production

An E1 Entertainment release of a Serendipity Point Films and E1 presentation in association with APB Pictures. Produced by Jonas Bell Pasht, Ari Lantos. Executive producer, Michael Dowse. Directed by Simon Ennis. Screenplay, Ennis, Josh Peace.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jonathan Bensimon; editor, Matt Lyon; music, Don MacDonald; production designer, Rupert Lazarus; costume designer, Ruth Secord; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel Pellerin; music supervisor, John Rowley; casting, Millie Tom. Reviewed at AMC Yonge & Dundas 24, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2009. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Josh Peace, Stephen McHattie, Dov Tiefenbach, Kristen Hager, Clark Johnson, Liane Balaban, Michael Madsen, Greg Bryk, Martha Burns, Julian Richings, Kristin Fairlie, Dan Lett, Paul Boudreau, Nicole Arbour.

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