Yeah... a comedy... from Outsiders Productions, man. And guess what... it's actually funny. Written by Todd Kinnamon and directed by Kinnamon with, yes, Adam Hampton, Bowlin' Alley is the story of one night in the life of a counter clerk named Avery, hopefully, her FINAL night before she moves on to bigger and better things (things that don't involve rolling black balls down narrow alleys at white bats... but then again...). By the way, Avery is played by Angelina Hampton, but if you think she got the part because her last name is Hampton, you're wrong... it's because she's hot. Okay, Okay, Okay, it's because she can act. She is hot, though. She's also the film's producer. Which doesn't make her any less hot.
Naturally, Avery's departure marks Mick's last chance to get into her pants, which might just be the final frontier for this all-access maintenance man. It could be argued that Avery has no interest in Mick mainly because of the fact that her counter-mate Betsy (Julia Curry) is Mick's official (and noticeably pregnant) squeeze... the real truth, however, is that Avery finds Mick completely repulsive. Frankly, so does the audience, for the most part. And that's part of what makes Bowlin' Alley so much fun to watch... Adam Hampton (who, in previous films came off as dour and almost too serious) seems to be having great, great fun playing the part of Mick at his sleaziest. The man is hilarious to the point that we almost have to root for Mick, just to keep the entertainment going.
Angelina Hampton keeps the comedy going with her smirking disbelief that she is spending a single additional night in this place, almost playing "straight-man" to the entire bohemian crowd. Still, she does come up with some hilarious one-liners herself.
In that the Bohemian Crowd plays such a prominent role here, the film keeps from becoming merely a skirt-chasing cat-and-mouse between Mick and Avery. The ensemble includes such local notables as Shea Spears, Jason Garner, Ben Schadegg, Tony Gregory, Kenny Pitts and even Todd Kinnamon himself. The characters they bring to life are worthy of an appearance along side any Jay and Silent Bob appearance. Check out the award-winning The Empire Strikes Back-inspired poster for just a few ideas here. You've got Steve, "best damn pool player in the Oklahomas", Leon, the consummate Bowler with a raging wife-inspired headache, Brad and Dylan, the geeks on the prowl for dames (almost as self-deluded as Mick) and a whole lot more. It's almost like showing up at the ABC Bowling Center and having a spy camera to watch all the goings-on whether you want to or not. And all the while Mick is goofing around the place looking for play while Betsy is convincing herself that Mick is not only the sturdy, trustworthy provider for her and her baby-to-be, but is also just about the smartest man she's ever met. Good luck, lady.
At times Bowlin' Alley does seem to think it's funnier than it is, as if it had its own secret joke that it wants to tell, but can't quite get out. It also reaches a certain point of too-raunchy-for-its-own-good, as if a gross-out comedy rested just behind the Scooby-Doo Rubber Mask of an Indie Comedy. The film, though primarily well-lit and edited (some of the Family Guy-esque asides work very well), the film is marred by some of the independent film marks that give an unfinished look to certain parts. The grainy outside scenes are telling. Still, with the right budget, this could have been a better film.
That said, take away the independent look of the film and the occasional acting flub and you've got a better film than most of the pusillanimous mainstream comedies that make it out of Whoreywood these days.
Between the time I received my screening copy of the DVD and the time of this writing Bowlin' Alley has been featured at The Second Annual Trail Winds Film Festival, where it won three awards. In short, you don't need to just take my word for it. That word is that Bowlin' Alley isn't perfect, nor is it the funniest film in the history of mankind... but it is very funny and worth a look, especially for Independent Film Fans. In fact, when things seem to be at their silliest, Bowlin' Alley throws out the occasional high-minded, redeeming moment that shows that just under its rough veneer, it just might have an intelligent, funny movie hiding along side the others. And that's not just Avery, though her story does maintain the most interest!
Not bad, guys, not bad. Three Stars out of Five for Bowlin' Alley, the silly, Southern-Fried screwball comedy from the serious company. Adam Hampton has managed to surprise me with his range. Hell, up until now I feared he might not be able to smile. Tragic. For fans of screwball comedy and ensemble laughs, this one is right up your alley. Keep it rolling, kids. You've pinned a lucky strike, this time. I know, I know, you're tired of my Bowling Puns. You're all thinking "Spare me!"
See you in the next reel... with more bad jokes.
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