Comedic rock musicals are a challenging form of film to get right. On top of creating jokes that connect with your audience, you also have to craft catchy songs that interplay with the funny bits and deepen the story’s emotions. With The Rumperbutts, writer-director Marc Brener attempts to find that balance with the married indie duo Mates of State, otherwise known as Jason Edward Hammel and Kori Gardner. In this production, the Mates of State portray Jack and Bonnie, respectively.
In 2005, Jack and Bonnie meet, fall in love, and form a band. But, three years later, the musicians find themselves stuck in an odious contract to portray two cutesy lion-flower hybrids named The Rumperbutts. While the children’s music act is strongly profitable, Jack and Bonnie have grown to loathe each other and break up. Stuck with several years to go on their tormented contract to portray these sickeningly saccharine characters, Jack and Bonnie find other people to sleep with and spiral further into despair.
Then, one evening, a magical stoner named Richie (Josh Brener) materializes and proffers them a new chance in the form of an enchanted joint. When they smoke said pixie marijuana, Jack and Bonnie find themselves with a second chance to resume playing as an indie rock band. The rest of the movie follows their attempts to make it as an outfit named The Dean’s List.
“…Jack and Bonnie find themselves with a second chance to resume playing as an indie rock band.”
There are two parts of The Rumperbutts to consider: the humor and the music. First are the songs written in collaboration with the director. They tell a wonderful story of falling apart and putting yourselves back together again. Charting the dissolution of both the titular band and the central relationship, through the effort of forgiveness and starting again, the songs are lovely notches on the musical’s trajectory. The band at the center of the story, Mates of State were new to me. I found their music to be both catchy and pop forward. They strike me as a very upbeat band and definitely the kind of music to play when one wants to feel warmth and goodness.
Secondly is the fairly dry comedy. If you prefer a strong slapstick style of humor or gross-out jokes, this probably is not the film for you. If, however, you enjoy sexual innuendo and delicate wordplay, it will connect strongly. For my part, I mostly enjoyed the gentle nature of the humor, although I could have done with slightly more crass sex jokes. Still, the movie proves to be a pleasant time in front of your favorite streaming device.
I found Brener’s direction and storytelling to be very good. The naturalistic cinematography is also very effective. The action beats crescendo nicely as one comes to care for the central couple. That is due to the strong script and subtle charm of the direction.
If you enjoy small-scale rock musicals, then seek out The Rumperbutts. If you are already a fan of Mates of State, then this film is definitely for you. Overall, it is quite a delightful little gem.
"…quite a delightful little gem."