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By Phil Hall | November 26, 2005

Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking: isn’t there a major conflict of interest in having li’l ol’ me writing a review about a movie created by Chris Gore, the founder of our online feast? The answer is a ear-shattering NO, for two reasons. First, I have no personal involvement in this film. If I appeared in the movie or had some role in its production, I would recuse myself from commentary. Second, if Richard Corliss can review films from the Time-Warner studios or Roger Ebert can review films from the Disney umbrella, then why can’t I say something about a movie with a Film Threat connection? If Corliss and Ebert can do it, then I’m on the same train with them.

That said, I would like to praise “My Big Fat Independent Movie” for achieving something that most independently-produced comedies fail to do: it creates laughs. Not polite little grins, but genuine belly laughs. I have to admit that the level of laughter I experienced came as a shock, given the subject (a spoof of trendy indie movies) didn’t seem all that encouraging and the early reviews for the film suggested it was devoid of anything even vaguely mirthful.

If you know and love movies, you will have a field day here. Every hip, hot, funky, critically-adored and award-winning indie offering has been shish-kabobed with a deft skewer. The style of “My Big Fat Independent Movie” is aligned to the rat-a-tat-tat style of “Airplane!”where no joke is too silly and no subject is too sacred.

The film follows a pair of existentialist hitmen (think “Pulp Fiction”) who travel to Las Vegas for a robbery. Along the way, they encounter a hedonistic swinger (think “Swingers”), a bleached-blonde punk with extreme short-term memory problems (think “Memento”), a crushingly lonely grocery cashier (think “The Good Girl”), a Jewish genius pursued by homicidal rabbis (think “Memento”), and a syrupy do-gooding French chick with a Louise Brooks hairdo (think “Amelie”).

The fun in “My Big Fat Independent Movie” comes from the depth and scope of indie flicks being parodied. Even multiple films get parodied simultaneously: the faux-Amelie encounters a hunky guitar case-toting Mexican (think “El Mariachi”) along the road. Alas, she only speaks French with English subtitles while he converses in Spanish with English subtitles. Their enthusiasm in being to recognize each other’s dialogue rises when they notice the subtitles. But, alas, neither reads English.

Director Philip Zlotorynski does an extraordinary job in matching the precise rhythms and visual texture to the films he is spoofing (Zlotorynski also edited the film). Thus, the “Pi” scenes mirror the stark monochrome of their inspiration, the “Memento” moments feel like an extension of that flick’s unbalanced personality, and there’s even an animated riff on Richard Linklater’s work. Even the music matches the take-off targets (hearing the hideous music that was meant to recall the treacly “Amelie” score was a bit too close for my comfort). Of course, not everyone in the indie world is hip to the nth degree: there’s even Pete Jones in a hilarious self-deprecatory cameo that pokes fun at his “Project Greenlight” bumbling.

In watching “My Big Fat Independent Movie,” it is shocking to realize how many contemporary indie films are built on gimmicks. The film hones in on this gimmickry and twists it like taffy, making them seem all the more foolish. Perhaps this is a commentary on today’s filmmaking: you need some sort of brash or weird hook to hang a film (the pretentious palaver of the “Pulp Fiction” hitmen, the feral and barely assimilated extended family of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” etc.). The masters of indie cinema (the icons from the 1950s through the early-1980s) were able to build memorable productions based on deep characters and mature considerations of the human experience. Their works could not be summarized in a single selling point, let along goofed upon as a spoof.

If you love movies, you should love “My Big Fat Independent Movie.” Anyone who cannot recognize the spirit and imagination which this film posseses is an idiot.

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