The darker side of the American spirit of invention weighs on actor-turned-helmer Paul Schneider’s “Pretty Bird,” an overly calculated cautionary tale. A witless entrepreneur played by Billy Crudup in unhinged comic mode runs roughshod through people’s lives — and the movie — with the patently dumb idea of marketing a rocket belt. That the idea fails miserably isn’t for a moment surprising, and little in Schneider’s script adds texture for interest or intrigue. With a gruff and one-note Paul Giamatti as co-star, pic won’t fly in the theatrical market, and will prove a dicey sell abroad and in vid.
Fast-talking Curt (Crudup) returns to an unnamed small town from his past, and sucks gullible mattress storeowner and buddy Kenny (David Hornsby) into his scheme of making and marketing a rocket belt that allows for limited airborne transit. Item is an obvious commercial nonstarter, yet not even cynical, unemployed rocket scientist Rick (Giamatti), who signs on with Curt, questions the project until it’s clear that he’s in business with a madman. Strong plus here is a soundtrack plucked from Dutch minimalist composer Wim Mertens’ catalog.