'Sassy Pants'

Walking a sometimes wobbly line between charming and cloying, "Sassy Pants" is a fable-like comedy that charts a young woman's liberation from the apron strings of her divorced mother, with only limited help from the depressed gay father she moves in with.

Walking a sometimes wobbly line between charming and cloying, “Sassy Pants” is a fable-like comedy that charts a young woman’s liberation from the apron strings of her divorced mother, with only limited help from the depressed gay father she moves in with. Writer-director Coley Sohn’s first feature is lightly likable, albeit not quite distinctive enough in style or storyline to suggest much of a showing when it opens a planned limited theatrical run in September. Home-format sales should be hardier.

Since her marriage fell apart — perhaps because Dad decided he was gay, perhaps because she’s a control-freak horror — June (Anna Gunn) has exerted a stranglehold on her two children. Shayne (Martin Spanjers) no longer tries to hide his cynical disdain. But Mommy’s little princess, Bethany (Ashley Rickards), hitherto obedient, can stand it no more when she’s informed that she’ll be “going to college” via online courses and, for good measure, is humiliated when Mom drags her out of the first peer party she attends.

Bethany flees to the house of car-salesman dad Dale (Diedrich Bader), who’s been little involved in his children’s lives since the divorce. But freedom proves a mixed bag, since this excessively sheltered heroine is so out of touch with the outside world. Plus, Dale has become an alcoholic whose identity issues extend to his relationship with his flamboyant, much younger live-in boyfriend Chip (Haley Joel Osment).

A few hiccups later, everyone has carved out at least the beginnings of liberation from their own personal traps, Mom included. Still, the pic’s general goodwill can’t always cover its more superficial or routine aspects, notably June’s somewhat shrilly caricatured character conception and Bethany’s banal dream of becoming a fashion designer. Landing between the twee, naturalistic and formulaic, “Sassy Pants” settles for cute, taking too few gambles to make a more lasting impression.

Perfs are solid, tech/design contributions modest but pro. Soundtrack is over-sweetened by rather bland, wispy femme pop tracks.

Sassy Pants

Production

A Spruce Street Films and Urbanite presentation in association with the Mystery of Content and Cinelicious. Produced by Adam Wilkins, Pavlina Hatoupis. Executive producers, Eyde Belasco, Paul Korver. Co-producer, Daniela Roth. Directed, written by Coley Sohn.

Crew

Camera (color), Denis Maloney; editors, Robin Katz, Kindra Marra; music, Angela Correa; music supervisor, Kasey Truman; production designer, Rachel Payne; art director, Aaron King; costume designer, Mairi Chisholm; sound, Matt Sanchez; sound designer, Zach Seivers; sound editors, Tyler Blythe, Mhairi MacRitchie; assistant director, David Halls; casting, Eyde Belasco. Reviewed online, San Francisco, June 20, 2012. (In Frameline -- U.S. Features; Outfest; Santa Barbara, Nashville film festivals.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Haley Joel Osment, Martin Spanjers, Rene Rosado, Shanna Collins, Drew Droege, Jenny O'Hara, Diedrich Bader.
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