Los Angeles Times

Under the Hula Moon

Friday December 1, 1995

     First-time feature director Jeff Celentano begins his sweet-natured comedy "Under the Hula Moon" with the kind of tropical paradise shots that make you want to drop everything and rush right over to the airport. He follows with some tight glimpses of a mobile home--only to pull back and reveal that it's been plucked down in the midst of a Southwestern desert, transformed into a veritable tropical oasis with early tiki torch decor inside and out.
     It's home to a pair of likable young dreamers with broad drawls, Buzz and Betty Wall (Stephen Baldwin and Emily Lloyd), so crazed to go to Hawaii that when "Hawaii Five-O" reruns air they jump up and do a frenzied dance to the theme music they know by heart. But Buzz is having no more luck launching his anti-skin cancer sunscreen mud than his previous attempts to get rich quick with a pyramid scheme and an herbal laxative. What's more, Betty's not having any better luck in hitting the Publisher's Clearinghouse jackpot.
     But just as Betty convinces Buzz that it's time to face reality and go get a job, his escaped con/killer/armed robber half-brother Turk (Chris Penn) shows up; Betty and Buzz's adventures begin in earnest.
     If actor-turned-director Celentano and his co-writer Gregory Webb's script is not all that original or thigh-slappingly hilarious, "Under the Hula Moon" is always amiable and often pretty funny. It is technically polished, well-paced and has provided well-written roles for its stars, which include Musetta Vander as a Nicole Kidman/"To Die For"-type TV reporter ruthlessly determined to cover stories more exciting than the growth of a giant pumpkin.
     It's an encouraging start for Celentano, whose strongest suit is his direction of his cast.

Under the Hula Moon, 1995. R, for language and violence. A Trident release of a Periscope Pictures presentation. Director Jeff Celentano. Producer Stacey Codikow. Executive producer Jim B. Hodge. Screenplay by Celentano, Gregory Webb. Cinematographer Phil Parmet. Editor Donald Likovich. Costumes Susanna Puisto. Music Hidden Faces. Production designer Randal P. Earnest. Art director David Fitzpatrick. Set decorator Brent Bye. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Stephen Baldwin as Buzz Wall. Emily Lloyd as Betty Wall. Chris Penn as Turk. Musetta Vander as Maya Gundinger.

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