An unabashed homage to 1930s screwball comedies, “Knock on Wood” retreads the familiar territory of Capra and Sturges, but despite solid performances and above-average tech credits, it adds little new to the formula of the improbable road romance.While its engaging premise could make this a festival favorite, commercial prospects are slight.
Uppity New York Jewish princess Randy Hartman (Rikki Dale) is forced to share a cross-country car ride with down-to-earth Midwestern rancher Gale Forman (David Elliott). Initially, of course, the unlikely traveling companions can’t stand each other, but by the end of their journey they have survived ordeals, overcome their differences and bonded romantically.
Writing-directing team Donna Silverberg and Bradley Fisher (who wear any number of production hats, from choreographer to costume designer) take a little too long with the comic setup, in which the superstitious Randy learns her relatives have died in plane, train and bus accidents and insists a car is the only safe means to travel to her cousin’s wedding.
Opening scenes, shot in color, have a contempo feel, but once Gale pulls up in his vintage Chevy, the film switches to black-and-white, a choice that looks quaint but seems, finally, contrived.
Deliberately evoking another era, the helmers use rear-screen projection and proscenium blocking to present the journey, techniques that might have been tedious were it not for Dale and Elliott’s assured perfs and strong chemistry.