Venus on the Halfshell

Now that they have "Venus on the Halfshell" out of their systems, filmmakers Niels and Tess Nielsen might consider reworking their intriguing premise into an edgy drama or a black comedy. Unfortunately, their current collaboration is a tonally inconsistent, aggressively overplayed botch, infused with the sort of desperately cutesy silliness endemic to small-budget indies.

With:
With: Monica Serene Garnich, Jonathan Aube, Miguel Perez, Craig Tsuyumine, Sean Stavropoulos, Hannah Thurston, Deborah Couples, Adoni Maropis, Jennifer Gareis.

Now that they have “Venus on the Halfshell” out of their systems, filmmakers Niels and Tess Nielsen — he directs, she writes, both produce — might consider reworking their potentially intriguing premise into an emotionally edgy drama or an exuberantly black comedy. Unfortunately, their current collaboration is a tonally inconsistent, aggressively overplayed botch, infused with the sort of desperately cutesy silliness endemic to small-budget indies that pad programs at second-tier fests.

Monica Serene Garnich (of MTV’s “Undressed”) struggles valiantly in lead role of Jackie Zelinski, a comely forest ranger who falls for hunky artist Hendrix O’Hara (Jonathan Aube) after rescuing him from a motorcycle mishap. Hendrix waits until after they’re married to tell Jackie about his budding-delinquent son (Sean Stavropoulos), spoiled-brat daughter (Hannah Thurston) and borderline-psycho ex-wife (Jennifer Gareis). Hendrix gets custody of his kids, Jackie is visited by her ne’er-do-well father (Miguel Perez) — and the extended family plummets to the level of trailer-park trash. Nielsens use Alan Derian’s whimsical music to indicate pic’s humorous intent, but some scenes — including one involving a gun-wielding speed freak — seem jarringly out of place, and would be more appropriate in serious drama about domestic violence.

Venus on the Halfshell

Production: A Nuclear Kitty production. Produced by Roger Mende. Executive producers, Tess Nielson, Niels Nielsen. Directed by Niels Nielsen. Screenplay, Tess Nielsen.

Crew: Camera (color), James LeGoy; editor, Andrea Bottigliero; music, Alan Derian. Reviewed on videocassette, Houston, May 3, 2003. (In WorldFest Film Festival, Houston.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Monica Serene Garnich, Jonathan Aube, Miguel Perez, Craig Tsuyumine, Sean Stavropoulos, Hannah Thurston, Deborah Couples, Adoni Maropis, Jennifer Gareis.

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