Sundance Review: ‘Spring Breakdown’

01.17.09 9 years ago

Warner Bros.

The first movie I saw at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Push.” That ended up being a predictable and satisfying Sundance choice. Tears were shed. Adversity was overcome. Budgets were low. As you may already have heard, “Push” features a career-redefining performance by Monique, though I’m less convinced than my colleague Greg that the movie has any real commercial prospects.

The second movie I saw at Sundance, though, was “Spring Breakdown.”

On one hand, “Spring Breakdown” co-stars Parker Posey, which obviously guaranteed its placement in Park City. That being said, no matter how many Sundance movies Posey has had before and no matter how many she’ll inevitably have in the future, this is the first and last time she’ll ever be spotted wrestling a group of women in a pool of salsa.

And while lesbian love is always in vogue at Sundance, “Spring Breakdown” will be the fest’s lone sapphic snog between Sophie Monk and Amber Tamblyn.

Yes, I’m well aware that’s a mark in the movie’s favor. 

A few more words after the bump…

“Spring Breakdown” is actually screening as part of the Park City At Midnight program. It doesn’t really need this exposure, since it already had distribution, albeit through Warner Brothers’ straight-to-video imprint.

And, in truth, “Spring Breakdown” feels much more like that sort of fitfully funny (but frequently tedious) DVD offering than like a midnight movie. Directed by Ryan Shiraki, it’s a solid PG-13 film and a pretty innocent one at that. It isn’t nearly exploitative enough or raunchy enough to satisfy a late-night audience, though it’s exactly low-brow enough to disappoint fans of stars Posey and Amy Poehler. [I’m not so sure that co-star and co-writer Rachel Dratch’s fans expect the same level of intelligence.]

“Spring Breakdown” is a Frankenstein monster cobbled from elements of “Old School,” “House Bunny” and “Revenge of the Nerds,” but its basic sixth-wave feminist premise is built around its three leading ladies recovering their lost thirtysomething mojo during a week in South Padre. It takes booze, wet t-shirt contests and casual sex for them to realize either that they need to change their lives, or that they had it pretty good to begin with. I’m really not sure which.

In addition to the three leads (Posey looks, sounds and seems like she was invited to the party mostly as a proxy for Tina Fey), “Spring Breakdown” has a crackerjack supporting cast that’s responsible for many of the laughs. When you have Jane Lynch, Missi Pyle, Will Arnett and Seth Myers stopping by to mug, you know there will be occasional amusement. But when you also have Kristen Cavalieri from “Laguna Beach” pretending to act, there are bound to be less mirthful distractions as well. Cavalieri, or the film’s editors, at least have the sense to keep to the background in a bikini, letting Monk supply most of the eye candy, plus a distractingly bad Southern accent.

“Spring Breakdown” has spent some time on the shelf and this Sundance exposure will most get it press before it arrives on DVD, or at least that’s my hunch. It was a bizarre thing to be watching in this milieu, but at least it offered a brief frivolous warm-weather distraction in this chilly locale.

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