Movie review, 'The Independent'

EntertainmentMoviesMax PerlichJaneane GarofaloJerry StillerRon HowardChicago Tribune

Sometimes a movie should stick to a single key or a single shtick. Director/co-writer Stephen Kessler's "The Independent," which pretends to tell the story of fictitious Morty Fineman (Jerry Stiller), an insanely prolific indie schlock producer and director whose 427 films encompass everything from low-grade horror to cheesy action to nudie-cuties, is done partly as mockumentary in the "Spinal Tap" tradition.

The rest is done as a straight comedy blending Hollywood self-satire with family sentimentality. It's a tale of that colorful, temperamental, screaming old cuss Morty and his supportive but skeptical daughter, Paloma (Janeane Garofalo), battling bankruptcy, infamy, ignominy and a world that refuses to recognize the genius of the man who gave it "LSD-Day," "Cheerleader Camp Massacre," "Teenie Weenie Bikini Beach" "World War III II," and 423 other monstrosities.

It's a pretty funny idea, but only the mockumentary stuff plays funny: mock interviews with the likes of Roger Corman, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich and Fred Williamson, plus mock archival footage from some of the movies. When it's trying to be a more conventional comedy, it's mostly pretty bad, unworthy of the talents of Stiller and also unworthy of Garofalo, Max Perlich and the rest. It's unworthy even of former porno superstar Ginger Lynn Allen, appearing here as Mayor Kitty Storm of Chaparral, Nev., brothel capital of the Southwest.

"The Independent," in fact, may be the only movie in recent memory unworthy of its own genuinely hilarious Web site, www.finemanfilms.com.

"The Independent"2 Stars

Directed by Stephen Kessler; written by Mike Wilkins, Kessler; photographed by Amir Hamed; edited by Chris Franklin; production designed by Russell Christian; music by Ben Vaughn; produced by Wilkins. An Arrow Releasing release; opens Friday, May 3. Running time: 1:20. MPAA rating: R (language, some violence, sexuality).

Morty Fineman -- Jerry Stiller
Paloma Fineman -- Janeane Garofalo
Ivan -- Max Perlich
Mayor Kitty Storm -- Ginger Lynn Allen Baruce -- John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon

Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.

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