Young Raimond (Logan Macaulay) is bummed out, as his friend Brock (Colin Beaton) is always getting the best playing cards in a Magic: The Gathering-style game the two play. His sadness at being beaten to a particularly rare card, the zombie unicorn, has not gone unnoticed by Raimond’s grandfather (E. Lee Smith), a kind man who owns a junk shop in town. He tells Raimond that he too has the rare zombie unicorn back at his shop, and to bring Brock by after school and he’ll show them both (in Raimond’s mind, hopefully to knock Brock down a peg or two when he sees he’s not the only one with the card).
Filmmaker J. Allen’s short film, Family Business, is the type of playful and fantastical short film that could have gone any number of directions. The music hints at something fun and lighthearted, and two of the leads are kids, so it’s not necessarily leaning anywhere sinister but, at the same time, I’ve seen enough short films to know that if a filmmaker wanted to spin a film on its ear, they could (and often will). So, to me, this could’ve gone anywhere.
It stayed playful and fun, however, introducing us to the world of granddad’s junk shop, and setting up a dynamic between grandson and granddad that ties into the title of the film. Granddad’s time is running down, but his junk shop is a special business, and one he wants to keep in the family. Finding a way to showcase the store that will interest his grandson is key to striking the spark that will hopefully burn into a full-blown fascination with keeping the business going long after Granddad is gone.
On the plus side, besides the pleasant tone, the film looks quite nice, and there’s a few quality elements of CGI, when necessary. Granddad’s makeup leaves quite a bit to be desired, however, as it would appear that the filmmakers tried to gray and wrinkle him up a little bit more, and the result is it sometimes looks like Granddad isn’t real, but a cyborg-like approximation of an elderly man instead. Plus, the acting can be a little rough at times but, to be fair, two of the leads are kids and they’re given quite a lot of dialogue to ramble through, particularly in the opening scene; a daunting task for any actor, let alone a young one.
Overall, Family Business does a great job of giving an introduction to characters that could easily be in more shorts after the fact. Think of it like the opening to the first Harry Potter film; the characters are established, as are certain basic elements, and now the adventures can begin. Family Business is an intro, the adventures could go anywhere.
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