Brave New Jersey

In 1938 on October 30th, Devil’s Night, Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of The Worlds  shook up the world.  

The panic gripped New Jersey particularly, where the Mercury Radio Theater announced invading Martians had landed in Grover’s Mill New Jersey and were destroying the countryside with a devastating heat ray weapon.

Quoting from New York Daily News, Halloween day 1938:  “A radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” – which thousands of people misunderstood as a news broadcast of a current catastrophe in New Jersey – created almost unbelievable scenes of terror in New York, New Jersey, the South and as far west as San Francisco between 8 and 9 o’clock last night.” … “Without waiting for further details, thousands of listeners rushed from their homes in New York and New Jersey, many with towels across their faces to protect themselves from the “gas” which the invader was supposed to be spewing forth.”

“…like any small town, it has a dark side and people who see the end of the world as a chance to release their inner desires.”

Funny now. Then not so much, I’m guessing. Dick move, Welles.

In Brave New Jersey director Jody Lambert has crafted a what-if tale set in the fictional sleepy little town of Lullaby, New Jersey. Lullaby is a stereotype of America in the 30’s, but it quickly becomes apparent that like any small town, it has a dark side and people who see the end of the world as a chance to release their inner desires and kick out the jams.

The residents of Lullaby feel they are certain to be a target given that they have the 3rd largest water tower in four counties. The night that follows reveals the best and worst of the town citizens as they await Martian death. Mayor Clark Hill (Tony Hale) is reserved and milqtoast and pines for a married woman. Peg (Anna Camp) is engaged to a boring superficial man and finds her inner warrior in the ramp up to the non-battle against the non-aliens.  

“This is a fun, fluffy bonbon of a film.”

The best character is Captain Ambrose P. Collins (Raymond J. Barry) an old warhorse piss-and-vinegar soldier from The War to End All Wars who seizes the opportunity to relive his glory days and make his war stories real one last time. Interestingly, Collins is the only one who sees the night for what it is… a chance to feel alive in the face of death.

This is a fun, fluffy bonbon of a film. Not much happening, not much to dislike, humorous and cute.

As a giant Sci-Fi geek I found myself wishing Yondu Udonta would land in a ravager ship and take over the town. Or that Serenity would crash in a field and Jayne would regale the townies with the song about the hero of Canton. But it ain’t that kinda thing, as the man said, so enjoy it for the thoughtful, comedic time that it is.

Brave New Jersey (2017) Directed by: Jody Lambert. Written by: Michael Dowling, Jody Lambert. Starring: Anna Camp, Raymond J. Barry, Erika Alexander.

7 out of 10

 

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