A scenic cross-country tour without much substance, writer-director-star Drew Denny's debut feature "The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On" follows two young women from the California desert to West Texas as they scatter a parent's ashes.

A scenic cross-country tour without much substance, writer-director-star Drew Denny’s debut feature, “The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On,” follows two young women from the California desert to West Texas as they scatter a parent’s ashes. En route, Will Basanta’s lensing maximizes the impact of some gorgeous landscapes, but the humans in them remain underdeveloped, with best friends goofing around less engaging than the pic imagines, and not enough character insight to ballast more serious moments. Further fest play is assured, particularly within spotlights on new and women directors; in commercial terms, however, prospects are minor.

Pals at least since high school a decade or so earlier, Andy (Denny) and Liv (Sarah Hagan) have reunited to honor a request by Andy’s just-deceased father to leave his ashes in various parklands along a designated route. Andy’s flippant attitude often seems to make a mockery of this task, though eventually we glean that her tendency to laugh at everything and anything is a mechanism to, you know, hide the pain. More straightlaced Liv, an actress, is primarily worried about a big audition she’ll have once they get to Austin. Along the road, the duo indulge in a lot of childish behavior (like shoplifting from a rural store), toy with same-sex attraction, and make a great deal of small talk that seldom gets around to anything truly revealing — about themselves, their friendship, their separate lives or the parents they have murky issues with.

With Andy as the mildly bad girl, and Liv as the good one, their pranks, role plays and spats may charm some viewers — particularly those who can stomach a high, nasal “widdle girl” voice like Hagan’s — but will leave others cold. That personal appeal is crucial, because “Most Fun” doesn’t have a great deal else going on. The only way to know the pic is based on Denny’s own experiences with her late father is to check its website; the usual assertiveness and definition of autobiography is lacking from this vague seriocomic amble to nowhere.

The result is watchable enough, but feels too insular and coyly evasive; afinal red herring is particularly frustrating. Denny shows enough ease behind and in front of the camera to suggest better things to come. A woman who’s evidently worn many hats in life already, she also contributes several wispy, folk-pop songs to the soundtrack.

Assembly is smooth, with Basanta’s location shooting the standout contribution.

The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On

Production

A Bonnie Brae, Brain House and Tiderock Films production. Produced by Jason Michael Berman, Clay Jeter, Drew Denny. Executive producers, Steven Drypolcher, Thomas B. Fore. Directed, written by Drew Denny.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm/HD to HD), Will Basanta; editor, Isaac Hagy; music, Duncan Thum; music supervisor, Denny; production designer, Denny; costume designer, Emily Batson, sound, William B. Hansen; re-recording mixer, Yagmur Kaplan. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Oct. 26, 2012. (In Seattle, Mill Valley, AFI film festivals.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Drew Denny, Sarah Hagan.
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