While undeniably a rough-around-the-edges first feature, there’s something so appealingly genuine about Arkansas-based Justin Warren’s loosely autobiographical “Then There Was Joe,” that you’re willing to forgive the shortcomings.
Inspired by the dynamic between the director-writer and his real-life bad boy big brother, the comedy concerns the efforts of perfect son and law student Ben Hazelstein (Warren) to prepare for his bar exam despite considerable distraction in the form of older sibling Joe (Ray Grady).
Despite landing in jail for his part in robbing a bowling alley filled with third-graders, Joe will now be allowed to await trial while under house arrest thanks to the intervention of the young men’s prominent judge dad (James “Butch” Warren), much to Ben’s understandable dismay.
Of course, Joe isn’t going to let a minor inconvenience like an ankle monitor cramp his OG lifestyle, and the predictable sibling ribaldry ensues, forcing straight-laced Ben to face the indignity of paying one of Joe’s hookers with cash from an envelope marked “Christmas Gifts.”
Although it wouldn’t be incorrect to cite the need for much crisper comedy pacing and less clunky emotional transitions, not to mention a subtler score that didn’t feel the need to pounce on all the funny bits, you’ll still root for the personable Warren ultimately to prevail.
There’s enough entertaining stuff here to suggest this crowd-funded production will pay off in a promising future.
‘Then There Was Joe’
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles