“Milkshake” sucks all the flavor out of a tasty premise: Jolie Jolson (Tyler Ross), great-great-grandson of jazz singer Al, wishes he were black. Innocuous at least, amiable at best, director/co-writer David Andalman’s microbudget debut feature promises a comedic exploration of racial mimicry and settles for a half-hearted high-school love triangle, the amusingly dated lingo of its mid-’90s setting aside. “Thugged-out,” black and pregnant, Jolie’s g.f. (Shareeka Epps) doesn’t like that her man, a benchwarmer on the basketball team, has been double-dribbling with Caucasian cheerleader Christine (Georgia Ford). Phase 4′s Sundance pickup might fool the VOD set, but not for long.References to Netscape, “Street Fighter” and pagers vaguely qualify as jokes, while the combination of O.J.’s ill-fitting gloves and a suburban D.C. theater’s poster for “Welcome to the Dollhouse” draws a frustrated smirk at Andalman’s inability to tell 1995 from 1996 — or homage from a mere name-drop. The camera never warms to gentle-voiced lead actor Tyler Ross, nor does it find a way around the pic’s wack production design. Stripped to beats and synth chords, tunes from Kieran Magzul feel genuinely old-school, unlike much of the rest of “Milkshake.”
A Phase 4 Films release of a Milkshake production. Produced by Mariko Munro. Executive producers, Vinay Singh, Jason Sosnoff, Edward Bergmark, Randy True, Scott Kasen. Co-producer, Kristie Lutz. Directed by David Andalman. Screenplay, Andalman, Mariko Munro.
Camera (color, HD), Ian Bloom; editors, Andalman, Munro; music, Kieran Magzul; production designer, Naomi Munro; costume designer, Allison Pearce; visual effects, Nat Jenks; sound, Jon Bozeman; supervising sound editor, Peter Levin; re-recording mixer, Peter Levin; assistant director, Rory Haines; casting, Anne Davison. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 20, 2013. Running time: 82 MIN.
Tyler Ross, Shareeka Epps, Georgia Ford, Eshan Bay, Leo Fitzpatrick, Danny Burstein.