Filmmaker Joe Crouch’s Assisted Fishing is a throwback to a nuttier time in cinema. There really isn’t any cynicism to be found in this film; it plays like a jaunty cartoon with its over-the-top characters and simple narrative. Even the music is appropriately goofy and whimsical; it’s family-friendly fare all around.
Dewey (Derek Haugen) is a loser who prefers to spend his time fishing with his pet iguana (whose thoughts, for the purpose of this film, we can hear). Trying to compete with the local fishing king/ex-friend/bully, Jimmy Valentine (Tim Whittet), Dewey is working on his own, secret fishing lure… a pickle with electrical current running through it; a piece of equipment hardly good for catching fish so much as electrocuting Dewey.
With the annual fishing competition coming up (one that Jimmy Valentine not only sponsors, but routinely wins), and lacking the necessary registration fee, Dewey takes a job watching over some elderly folks at an assisted living facility. As the tone of the film would suggest, this group of oldies is sufficiently nutty. While it may be an assisted living facility, it could’ve just as easily been a mental health facility.
The General (Gary Dion) is just that, a hard-nosed military officer in a wheelchair, prone to barking orders and hitting Dewey with his cane. Bernie (Paul James Saunders) is the guy with the upset stomach whose farts tend to appear onscreen as huge green clouds bursting from his nether region. Henry (Arlan Godthaab) barely ever speaks, and the rest of the elderly range from sexpot to anal retentive tattletale, and Dewey has to deal with them all while also trying not to get caught breaking any or all of the facility’s rules (rules that are all better suited for a concentration camp than an assisted living facility). Things become even more complicated when young mother Monica (Allyson Sereboff) brings her son Billy (Peter Vander Meulen) to the facility as part of a “kids hanging with the elderly” program. Problem is, every time Billy picks someone to hang out with, they end up dying, so the folks want nothing to do with this “cursed” child.
And that’s the basic set-up, really. From there the film just follows along as the shiftless Dewey tries not to screw up too bad in his march to fishing greatness, and things just get silly. There are laughs here and there, but the film does work in a few dramatic moments (though they are short-lived); this is a wacky comedy, after all.
Assisted Fishing doesn’t always look all that great, and that’s really my major criticism; if there’s something to be said for things being too in-focus (and therefore flat), and the composition of the frame being too wide (giving the impression of a play as opposed to a film), then that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not saying that its brand of wackiness worked for me either, but I can’t fault the film for picking its path and then committing wholeheartedly to it. As I said before, this could be a cartoon, and the acting definitely aims for over-the-top caricature moreso than reality. For some, that’ll really work. I’m not necessarily the right audience for this film, but I’m not going to dismiss the film outright because I see what it’s going for.
Overall, the film that kept popping into my head while watching this was Meatballs. Not because the films are similar in story, or even quality, but that’s the kind of fun tone I got out of the film. Assisted Fishing does go more silly, and Derek Haugen’s Dewey feels more Steve Guttenberg than Bill Murray, but that lighthearted, fun feel is all around this film.
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