By Doug Brunell | March 20, 2008

As much as there is to like about “Crispy, Crackers and Beans,” there’s more than enough to frustrate viewers, too. Most upsetting is the missed potential.

The story behind the film is interesting. Robert Fontaine, Jr.’s contract with “Santa Barbara” ended and he decided to get back into film. He shopped around a script that was a serious period piece which he figured he could do for $100,000. A Disney executive balked at that and said it would be blown the first day. Fontaine, Jr., undeterred, shot a trailer for $300 and took it to Disney, which loved it. Disney eventually passed, though, and the director was left shopping it around again. Film executives were enthusiastic about it, but wanted an action film, which Fontaine, Jr. did not want to do. Eventually one studio agreed to do the period piece if the filmmaker would do an action-adventure film first. Fontaine, Jr. eventually agreed and gave them “Crispy, Crackers and Beans.” The studio folded two weeks into production, and he finished the film out of his own pocket. The movie, which is a black and white noir satire, is mildly intriguing, but a lot less stellar than it could have been.

The story involves three policemen from New York who get caught up in some bad dealings that threaten their very lives. Torture, dead lovers, mysterious allies and elusive kingpins provide the conflict, but it all seems a little disjointed and drags in far too many places. The end leads you to believe there is a reason for that, but it doesn’t really work in the grand scheme of things, though the idea is well-conceived.

As a first effort, this is pretty impressive. A little more polish and it would’ve been a great film. The satirical elements don’t really work, though, and Fontaine, Jr. has done himself a disservice by not wholeheartedly embracing the action-adventure/cop genre and leaving the satire behind. Instead, he’s kind of thumbing his nose at the entire thing and trying to do it one better without ever really pulling it off, and that makes it the most irritating kind of failure of all.

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