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Film Review: ‘Buttwhistle’

An appropriately stupid title for a very stupid movie.

Trevor Morgan, Elizabeth Rice, Analeigh Tipton, Adhir Kalyan, Stella Maeve, Alex Solowitz, Katherine LaNasa, Wallace Langham, Thomas Jane, Patty McCormack.

Yes, “Buttwhistle” is every bit as stupid as it sounds. The second feature from writer-director Tenney Fairchild (“The Good Humor Man”) actually attempts to be an emotionally resonant relationship tale, but lives down to its title by delivering nothing but inane comedy and insufferable drama. A true endurance test for any viewer bold (or foolish) enough to suffer through all 93 minutes, the picture has unsurprisingly been languishing on the shelf since 2011; it opens today on one Los Angeles screen, but even an unceremonious VOD dump would be too good for this one. A spanking would be more appropriate.

An opening shot of an office worker’s head exploding a la David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” immediately sets the tone for what’s to come: surreal and senseless, with hopelessly inept execution. Pic introduces its bland protagonist, community college student Ogden Confer (Trevor Morgan), in bed with lovely ex-g.f. Rose (Analeigh Tipton, far and away the most likable presence onscreen). Exactly why she’s an ex is kept something of a mystery, but the way Rose pops up like a ghost in Ogden’s life at any given moment leaves little room for ambiguity. Soon enough, Ogden saves the life of suicidal Beth (Elizabeth Rice), the comely daughter of the exploding office drone; she appears to have some rather severe mental problems to go along with her complete lack of social skills and propensity for blurting out maddeningly quirky one-liners.

Fairchild’s dreadful script isn’t content to settle for quips that sound as if they were hastily retrieved from Diablo Cody’s wastebasket, and instead pushes into the genuinely mean-spirited territory of would-be shock comedy. “It comes easy … like clubbing baby seals,” Ogden “jokes” at one point. “You have retard strength, don’t you?” Beth inquires shortly after they meet. When characters have nothing else to say, they’ll flip each other off. That happens several times. The title itself is a non sequitur dropped during Beth’s dinner with Ogden’s parents (a fleetingly seen Katherine LaNasa and Wallace Langham). She claims he asked her to call him Buttwhistle. He never did. Ha ha.

Since there’s no logic to anything that happens, it’s not particularly surprising when Ogden starts getting advice from a talking bar of soap or a parrot echoes the high-pitched squeal of a smoke alarm. More troubling is the film’s rather blatant misogyny, extending to a pair of gratuitous topless scenes for Rice (currently being utilized to far better effect as Roger Sterling’s daughter on “Mad Men”) and the overindulgence of obnoxious riffing from Ogden’s sleazy Brit buddy, Hate Crime John (Adhir Kalyan).

Beyond Tipton’s, the perfs range from indifferent to aggravating. The entire film was clearly made on the cheap as evidenced by the roundly poor tech credits, especially the muddled sound mix.

Film Review: 'Buttwhistle'

Reviewed online, West Hollywood, April 24, 2014. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production: A Breaking Glass Pictures release of a M-80 Films presentation. Produced by Greg McCollum, Michael Younesi, Leah Fong, Tenney Fairchild. Executive producer, Daniel Dubiecki.

Crew: Directed, written by Tenney Fairchild. Camera (color, HD), Akis Konstantakopoulos; editors, Nathan Cali, Hovig Menakian; production designer, Zach Bangma; costume designer, Julieta Tapia; sound, Reece Miller; re-recording mixer, Ben Wilkins; visual effects supervisors, Jerry Spivack, John Myers; visual effects, Ring of Fire; stunt coordinator, Andy Palmer; line producer, Joshua Lewin; assistant director, Greg McCollum; second unit camera, Aymeric Montouchet; casting, Barbara Fiorentino, Danielle Aufiero, Amber Horn.

With: Trevor Morgan, Elizabeth Rice, Analeigh Tipton, Adhir Kalyan, Stella Maeve, Alex Solowitz, Katherine LaNasa, Wallace Langham, Thomas Jane, Patty McCormack.

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