×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Splinterheads

A lovestruck townie tries to steal a girl away from a traveling fair.

With:
With: Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor, Christopher McDonald, Lea Thompson, Dean Winters, Frankie Faison, Edmund Lyndeck, Jason Rogel, Pamela Shaw, Jason Mantzoukas.

Splinterheads work the midway, tasked with parting suckers from their cash when a carnival comes to town. In the movie “Splinterheads,” however, it’s the other way around, with a lovestruck townie trying to steal the girl from a traveling fair. Writer-director Brant Sersen’s amiable indie comedy — even less edgy than Greg Mottola’s theme-park-set “Adventureland” — attempts to compensate for its too-familiar romantic setup by defining its characters through idiosyncratic hobbies and traits. A non-starter on the fest circuit, “Splinterheads” will likely be overlooked in limited release as well.

As played by newcomer Thomas Middleditch, who’s performed with the Improvised Shakespeare Company and several other noteworthy comedy troupes, Justin Frost belongs to the same category of listless, middle-class, white-guy characters as Napoleon Dynamite. He lives at home with his single mom (Lea Thompson), practices amateur karate in his spare time and drives an old Toyota he insists on calling his “sports car” — qualities that don’t go particularly far with an edgy girl like Galaxy (Rachael Taylor, “Transformers”).

Nevertheless, Galaxy feigns interest when they first meet, showing just enough cleavage to con Justin out of 60 bucks in a gas station scam. When Justin sees her again, she’s working the dunking booth at the fair, a two-bit operation just exciting enough to lure Justin and his randy best friend, Wayne Chung (Jason Rogel), after a lame day mowing lawns.

For a character in his mid-20s, Justin behaves more like a junior high teen: He’s a bit of a spazz, and lacking in ambition, interests and backbone. He’s easily intimidated by Galaxy’s carny boyfriend (Dean Winters), as well as the town police officer (Christopher McDonald) who used to date his mom. By the third time he and Galaxy cross paths, during a geocaching hunt for hidden treasure, he is thoroughly smitten, yet virtually incapable of loosening up.

While Justin seems to be coming to terms with his inner dork, Middleditch has clearly embraced his own. The actor looks like a young Daniel Stern, with his sleepy eyes and sideways smirk, and it’s not hard to imagine Galaxy would find his awkwardness endearing. At the very least, he seems more sensitive than her cartoonish bully of a boyfriend.

Still, their time together feels mostly pro forma. Sersen (“Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story”) uses the old trick of dropping out the dialogue as the two characters laugh and chat, but instead of condensing several dates into a standard falling-in-love montage, he cuts together multiple shots from a single, long drive, which conveys little more than how long it takes to reach their destination.

Side characters introduced as comic relief — including a self-important magician (Jason Mantzoukas) and Justin’s older-than-dirt granddad (Edmund Lyndeck) — add flair to what feels like a very small town, but get in the way during the pic’s sloppy climax. Still, Sersen has the right instincts for comedy, and with a few clumsy exceptions, his work is polished enough to pass for pro. Red-shot footage looks sharp.

Popular on Variety

Splinterheads

Production: A Paladin release of an Atlantic Pictures presentation in association with Offhollywood Pictures. Produced by Darren Goldberg, Christopher Marsh, Anisa Qureshi. Executive producers, Steven Voichik, Mike Bulger. Co-producers, Chris Lechler, Amy Dempsey. Directed, written by Brant Sersen, based on a story by Sersen, Brendan McFeat Burke.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm) Michael Simmonds; editor, Chris Lechler; music, John Swihart; music supervisor, Jim Black, Gabe Hilfer; production designer, Chad Keith; art director, Adam Willis; costume designer, Cameron Folan; sound (Dolby), Bryan Dembinski; supervising sound editor, Marshall Grupp; sound designer, Phan Visutyothapibal; assistant director, Spit Stevens; associate producers, Nicholas R. Bell, Dominic Anatore, Taylor Phillips; casting, Beth Bowling, Kim Miscia, Nadia Lubbe. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 30, 2009. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With: Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor, Christopher McDonald, Lea Thompson, Dean Winters, Frankie Faison, Edmund Lyndeck, Jason Rogel, Pamela Shaw, Jason Mantzoukas.

More Film

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    The Arcs Festival Taps Isabelle Huppert to Head The Talent Village For Young Helmers

    Guillaume Nicloux, the French director of “Valley of Love,” is set to preside over the jury of the Arcs Film Festival, while the iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) will be the patron of the second edition of the Talent Village. Created last year, the Talent Village is a development workshop and platform for emerging [...]

  • Isaac Perlmutter Disney Marvel

    Does Kevin Feige's Marvel Promotion Mean Ike Perlmutter's Endgame?

    Last week’s move giving Kevin Feige charge of Marvel’s television, animation and print editorial operations should come as no surprise. As the architect of the company’s enormous film success, Feige arguably has the most enviable track record of any contemporary entertainment executive. Extending his creative control over more of the Marvel universe seems like a [...]

  • Santa Barbara

    Anais Pareto Onghena Brings ‘Santa Barbara’ WIP to Impulso Morelia

    Having impressed at the Morelia Intl. Film Festival in the past with her short films, Spanish born, Mexican trained filmmaker Anaïs Pareto Onghena returns to the Michoacán capital with her latest feature “Santa Bárbara,” participating in the Impulso Morelia works in progress sidebar. Bárbara, a Bolivian woman living in Barcelona for more than a decade, [...]

  • Anna Movie

    EuropaCorp's U.S. Arm Gets Six-Month Debt Waiver From Paris Court

    EuropaCorp Films USA, the U.S. arm of Luc Besson’s Paris-based company, has been granted a six-month debt waiver from a French commercial court. Parent company EuropaCorp has already been on a six-month debt waiver since May, and the protection is supposed to come to an end in late November. A source close to the company [...]

  • Charles Tesson, Katrin Pors and John

    Morelia, Locarno Festivals Host Fifth Academy for Young Professionals

    Mexico’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival (FICM) and Locarno Academy are hosting the fifth edition of their joint academy for young professionals at this year’s festival, supported by the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) and the Ibermedia program. The Morelia/Imcine-Locarno Intl. Industry Academy – it’s official name . counts as one of a series of Academies hosted [...]

  • THE IRISHMAN (2019)Ray Ramano (Bill Bufalino

    Middle East Premiere of Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' to Open Cairo Film Festival

    The Middle East premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will open the Cairo Film Festival, which has assembled a rich lineup of international and Arabic titles for its 41st edition. “The Irishman” will screen in the Egyptian capital Nov. 20 prior to being dropped globally by Netflix onto its service Nov. 27. Scorsese’s mob epic [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content