Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Almost Heaven. Out today - a little slice of Scottish Canadiana. (*****5/10)

Donal Logue is a pretty funny actor. He starred in one of my favourite films, the very-underrated Tao of Steve, in 2000. In that movie, he played an overweight, lazy slacker who still somehow managed to score every hot chick he came across. It was a great movie and a great role, because he was so slovenly and yet charming at the same time. And on some level, in some weird way, it absolutely made sense that he would be able to have sex with all these women. In the new film from Alliance Films, Almost Heaven, Logue plays a similar character. He is a television director who can no longer get work because he’s a drunk. One of those lovable, one-day-at-a-time, funny drunks, but I guess drunk enough to not work in Canada. So he gets sent to Scotland, to produce a fishing show, in a village where half the people are alcoholics, and the others still drink with breakfast. And although he’s a drunken slob, fat, who clearly pays no attention to his personal hygiene, he is still fighting off women at every turn. If there is a hot woman in this movie, there is a scene where she tries to sleep with him. It made sense in the Tao of Steve, it doesn’t so much make sense here.

So Logue goes to Scotland to film this show, and he has to do it with...his ex-wife! Hilarity will ensue! Anything that can go wrong will go wrong! There are no fish for the fishing show, people fall in the water, drunks fall over...it’s basically a sit-com for an hour in the middle. A very low-budget sit-com, where some of the scenes look like they were printed on the first take to save some money. Which doesn’t really hurt the film, in fact it adds to the small-town feel of the piece. Although therein lies a problem - the movie doesn’t feel to me like small-town Scotland. It feels like small-town Canada. Which is kind of a problem. The whole town feels like it was picked up in Scotland and dropped right into the middle of the prairies, such that half the actors seem like extras from Braveheart, and the other half think they are in an episode of Corner Gas.

Somehow, although Logue being a drunk is the central theme of the movie, and the question of "will he be able to overcome his problem and become successful" is the recurring theme, his drinking never really seems to actually be a problem. We see him take a drink, we see him get kind of tipsy, we know he is drinking because he gets other people to take his urine test for him, but it never appears to affect his work. The worst thing that happens to him is he sleeps in and misses breakfast a few days in a row. He falls for a local girl played by the gorgeous and charming Kristy Mitchell, and they have the inevitable fight that leads to the inevitable reconciliation, but it all feels strange, because a girl that hot and that smart and witty and together would be able to find a guy who wasn’t a fat ugly drunken slob. One would think. Logue’s small amount of charm in the film is not enough to justify his landing the best looking girl in the movie. This would be kind of like watching The Princess Bride, only Cary Elwes doesn’t get the girl because she’s fallen for Andre The Giant.

All this being said, Almost Heaven is almost good. As far as Canadian indie movies go, it’s sweet, charming and at times a little funny, thanks mostly to Donal Logue and Kristy Mitchell. Outside those two, there is very little to recommend this movie on any grounds. It’s a story we’ve seen before a hundred times, and it goes through the motions until it is over. Only Mitchell and Logue rise above. Almost Heaven comes out today courtesy of Alliance Films.

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