When I first picked up the box and saw the title, “Do It for Uncle Manny,” I have to say I was a bit scared. I braced myself for the hour and a half of a young man waiting for his beloved uncle to die, reading to him every day after school – probably some pretentious Dogme 95 version of “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
Thank god I was wrong.
“Do it for Uncle Manny” is a cute little screwball comedy about the essence of Hollywood – trying to be something you’re not.
Danny (played by director Adam Baratta) is a struggling L.A. actor planning on spending the weekend with Stuart (Shane Edelman), a buddy of his from back east. When Stuart comes into town, he stays at his Uncle Manny’s mansion. Did I mention that Uncle Manny happens to be a big-shot movie producer? Well, Danny and Stuart borrow Manny’s Rolls Royce and diamond-studded Rolex and head out for a night on the town.
After running into Jenny (Kari Wuhrer) who talks them into a three-way but only ends up getting them drunk as they play strip Yahtzee and waits for them to pass out. She’s got an ulterior motive, which the boys discover when they wake up with raging hangovers to find Uncle Manny’s Rolex stolen.
Thus begins the wild goose chase through L.A. for the stolen $250,000 watch and the elusive tart who took it. The adventures lead them into trendy L.A. restaurants, a Compton basketball court, a pawn shop and a greasy Latino garage to fix Uncle Manny’s Rolls when it loses its transmission.
There are some funny cameos (like Collin Mochrie as the gay maitre d’) and some unfunny cameos (like Louie Anderson, who answers the question, “Can Louie Anderson be more annoying than he is naturally?”). Other familiar faces to look for include George Wyner as Uncle Manny, Danny Trejo as (big surprise) a Mexican thug, Danni Nucci (Frebrizio from Titanic ) as the shady mechanic and real-life director Paul Mazursky as the big-time Hollywood director.
Overall, the film moves and does head to a distinct climax, although that climax is telegraphed too much at times. While there’s no raging three-way scene with Danny, Stuart and Jenny, it’s not a total waste. [NOTE: chauvinist alert!] There is a very generous Kari Wuhrer butt shot that’ll make you smile.
Okay, I’m done being a pig. If you get a chance to see “Do It for Uncle Manny” at a film festival as it makes its round, check it out. Baratta was able to shoot this film on a less-than-half-million-dollar budget with the number of names attached, and I’m interested to see what he does next.
Sure, there are scenes and plot points that are painfully reminiscent of other famous films like Risky Business, “Swingers,” even Burn, Hollywood, Burn, and an ending that is almost a shot-by-shot rip-off of Free Enterprise. This is Baratta’s first film, which makes some of this forgivable – and to his credit, he openly admits that “Swingers” was his inspiration. “Do It for Uncle Manny” is a fine first effort, and it makes you wonder what else Baratta has up his sleeve.