Fear and anxiety about the real world of work and responsibility underline “Last Call,” an intermittently buoyant campus comedy revolving around five male buddies. Though poorly produced, film’s engaging premise, occasionally inspired writing and disarming acting will increase its prospects for limited theatrical distribution in college towns, with the late-teen and twentysomething crowd a strong potential audience.
Five college seniors share a legendary party house known as El Rancho Grande. On the surface they seem an unlikely team, for they differ in personality and career orientation. Nonetheless, one major issue unites them: trepidation over terminating the fun life they have had as students.
Set on and around the University of California, Santa Cruz, just days before graduation, pic shows how the pain of leaving the security of campus life becomes all the more acute when the students must decide whether to maintain the household. Protagonist — and narrator — Jack (Ben Affleck), an uncertain sculptor who’s still tormented over losing his longtime girlfriend, makes a strong case for taking another year of moratorium on real life.
But his comrades are not so sure: Acerbic Dennis (French Stewart) plans to begin grad school in Michigan; Rob (Sam Rockwell) is about to move to L.A. with his g.f.; African-American Mickey (Vinnie DeRamus) is a gifted cartoonist at a crossroads; and Asian-American Slosh (Vien Hong) works in a pizzeria but has higher artistic goals.
As protagonists argue about the future, never stopping their beer-guzzling and partying, the comedy proceeds toward its anticlimax, the graduation ceremony. There’s a funny, heart-wrenching scene between Jack and his yuppie, bourgeois parents (the father is played tongue-in-cheek by offbeat actor Spalding Gray) that epitomizes the communication gap between the generations.
But the movie makes its funny points early on, which means the second half is basically an elaboration. If the loose, anecdotal pic sometimes rambles and loses its main line, eventually it rights itself, with enough inventiveness and fresh, nasty humor to compensate for the dull moments.
Direction by neophyte Rich Wilkes is awkward, lacking any visual flair. Tech credits of pic, which would benefit from a trimming of 10-15 minutes, are less than adequate on what appears to have been a modest budget. Nonetheless, unlike many new movies by young directors, “Last Call” is not mindless — its banter does concern real issues. The scene in which Jack desperately pleads with his former g.f. to love him at once underlines his attraction to her, the natural tendency to cling to what’s familiar, and fear of the unknown.