'Speed-Dating'

Three buddies/housemates run a speed-dating bar for minimum profit and maximum booty in writer-director Joseph A. Elmore Jr.'s manic romantic comedy.

Three buddies/housemates run a speed-dating bar for minimum profit and maximum booty in writer-director Joseph A. Elmore Jr.’s manic romantic comedy, whose wacky detours involve a blue-skinned Chris Elliott, a mad aunt who hops over shrubberies and a certifiably nutso ex-girlfriend out for vengeance. Though it follows the reductive paradigms of men-on-the-make laffers, the low-budget, flatly shot pic rarely turns nastily shrill or swaggeringly stupid in tone; redemption and/or sanity is usually waiting in the wings. Winner of the Pan-African fest’s audience award, “Speed-Dating” will rely on word of mouth after its Oct. 1 limited bow.

Pic’s romantic hero, Too Cool (Wesley Jonathan), is as irresistible to women as he is impervious to commitment. Primal scenes of abandonment by his mother pop up at regular intervals to explain his chauvinism, if not his failure to visit the institutionalized, hedge-jumping aunt (Roxanne Reese) who left him her fortune. Finally succeeding in shaking off his obsessively clinging g.f., Frenchita (Mary Alexandra Stiefvater), Too Cool promptly falls hard for his apparent soulmate, beauteous painter Danielle (Mekita Faiye, one of the pic’s producers) — only to discover, after several blissful montages, a major fly in the ointment.

Too Cool’s sidekick Dog (Chico Benymon), who shares in the female bounty reaped by speed-dating (though less spectacularly than does his hunky pal), winds up enamored of sexy, churchgoing Elizabeth (Vanessa Simmons). This leads to a puzzlingly undramatic section of the film whose main focus is an extended turn by comedian Tony T. Roberts as a fast-talking pastor.

The third leg of the threesome, Beaver (Leonard Armond Robinson), on the other hand, provides drama galore as he fends off his buds’ amicable but insistent gay-baiting while trying to figure out his sexual orientation. High-camp musical encounters in a gay bar confirm his fashion sense but fail to fully pin down his choice of bedmates.

Visually, “Speed-Dating” seldom strays far from brightly colored, head-on sketch comedy; many of its goofier conceits, such as Elliott’s recurring appearance as a blue-bodied liquor-license inspector, fail to read as anything but willfully weird.

Speed-Dating

Production

A Rockstone Releasing release of a Eizzil Entertainment production. Produced by Mekita Faiye, La Monde Byrd. Executive producers, Faye Banyard, David Woessner, Mekita Raiye, Michael J. Davis. Co-producers, Hurriyyah Muhamad, Jan Johnson. Directed, written by Joseph A. Elmore Jr.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), David Daniel; editor, Terry Walters, music, Evan Hornsby; music supervisor, David Leonard; production designer, Kody Busch; costume designer. Genelle Brooks; sound, Umbe Aden; supervising sound editor/sound designer, Marcus Blanchard; choreographers, Maryam Toussaint Khallaayoun, Wesley Jonathan; casting, Amber Bickham. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Sept. 27, 2010. (In Pan-African Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Wesley Jonathan, Chico Benymon, Leonard Armond Robinson, Mekita Faiye, Vanessa Simmons, Chris Elliott, Kelly Perine, Clint Howard, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater, Roxanne Reese, Tony T. Roberts.

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