Ever since he was a little kid, Frank Bartlett has been tricked, teased, and tormented in glorious Technicolor by his older brother Bruce. Every prank, every pratfall, has been captured in humiliating detail on videotape and made public in some shape or form, right on up to the big reveal during Frankie’s wedding ceremony when he learned his wife had cheated on him. Spared, somewhat temporarily, when Bruce enters rehab to kick a drug habit, Frankie is fair game again now that his brother, touting himself as an actual “film director,” is clean and heading home, camera in hand, to continue right where he left off.
As devised by Jordan Roberts (he penned Marvel’s Big Hero 6 and wrote Morgan Freeman’s lines for that 2005 documentary about those marching penguins), 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom is insane, and insanely funny. It plays like a broad farce on the surface but it’s hip and clever and detailed within, filled with oddities and neat asides and bits you never saw coming. And it keeps them coming for full-on 89 minutes, never once flagging or wearing out its welcome. It’s unusually joyous, actually, for an embattled siblings flick, flinging fancy at us with confidence and charismatic aplomb. And its characters are fabulous: well-drawn, credible, and beautifully performed.
In the title role, Charlie Hunnam (FX’s Sons of Anarchy) balances beleaguered, boyish charm with sexy stupidity. Chris O’Dowd, often seen hanging about with Maya Rudolph on set, here plays Charlie’s obnoxious camcorder-toting brother, and has rarely been better. And Lizzy Caplan, before she embraced nudity on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, is a revelation as Lassie, the drunk who crashes her bike into Charlie’s car, ends up making out with him, then winds up on the internet. Rounding out the stellar cast are Sam Anderson and Nora Dunn as the parental Bartletts and Ron Perlman, touching and terrific as Phyllis (formerly Phil), a trans-hacker to whom the sibs turn to get the “sex tape” offline before Lassie and her relentlessly self-absorbed actor father (Sex and the City‘s Chris Noth) see it. Ninth-billed Oliver Ham Austin is a literal pig.
It was that title, admittedly, that piqued my interest initially but the zaniness, the zingers—the whole zippy little doo-dah of a package, in fact—kept me in my seat. 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom is a countdown to quirky fun of the biggest, booming-est order. I had a blast.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth