Review: ‘Five Time Champion’

Modestly amusing in its depiction of a discontented high schooler's efforts to make sense of his sexual identity while observing the odd behavior of adults in his orbit.

Though scarcely distinguishable from scads of other indie dramedies about coming of age in small-town Texas, “Five Time Champion” is modestly amusing in its depiction of a discontented high schooler’s efforts to make sense of his sexual identity while observing the odd behavior of adults in his orbit. Writer-director Berndt Mader evidences a generosity of spirit toward his characters that may help his debut feature attract attention on homevid after fest-circuit exposure.

Already sensitive to rumors about his runaway father’s alleged homosexuality, young Julius (Ryan Akin) is confused by his reluctance to get physical with a willing classmate (Noell Coet). Meanwhile, his taxidermist mom (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) is torn between two ardent admirers, an amiable underachiever (Justin Arnold) and the wealthy baseball coach at Julius’ school (Jon Gries), and his grandfather (Don Pirl) greatly distresses Julius’ grandmother (Betty Buckley) by surreptitiously caring for an ailing ex-sweetheart (Juli Erickson). Julius’ ongoing science project, involving worms that regenerate themselves, carries a tad too much symbolic weight. But performances are fine across the board, and the resolution to the mystery of Julius’ dad is surprising and funny.

Five Time Champion

Production

A Bear Media presentation of a Shark Films/Bear Media production. Produced by Ezra Venetos, Berndt Mader. Directed, written by Berndt Mader.

Crew

Camera (color), Jimmy Lee Phelan; editors, Brent Joseph, Don Howard; music, Graham Reynolds; production designer, Javier Bonafont; art director, Alan Lampert; costume designer, Stephanie A. Steele. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, May 15, 2011. (In SXSW, Dallas film festivals; Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Ryan Akin, Betty Buckley, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Jon Gries, Justin Arnold, Noell Coet, Robert Longstreet, Don Pirl, Juli Erickson.

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