“My Dead Uncle’s Band” is a dreary, cinematic dirt nap narrated by Abby Rhodes (Deidre Kotch), a Friscan-based orphan whose deceased parents were “big Beatles fans,” hence her Fab Four-inspired name. Director John Waldrop is going for Christopher Guest-styled, mockumentary laughs as he chronicles Abby’s quest to find surviving members of her dead uncle’s high school band.
Like a too-gregarious stalker (think of Sandra Bernhard’s disturbed “King of Comedy” predator, played as a lightweight Cindy Lauper fan), Abby hunts down one-time musos from “Marsha and the Electrical Crushed Velvet Freeway,” including Larry (Larry Varanelli) and his real estate-hawking, control-freak wife. She also wheedles her way into the life of yard sale enthusiast John (John Bauman), whom we meet pawning a “Xena” action figure from his front lawn.
Then there’s Johnny Volcano (director Waldrep), a hippie bread-maker whose true passion in life is symbolized by the tie-dye shirt he wears beneath his white baker’s jacket. Completing the musical mix is Martyn (Martyn Jones), a low-rent Larry Flynt who proudly manages a chain of porno stores, while dressed in leopard-skin bathrobes and smutty shades.
Ultimately, intrusive Abby convinces these middle-aged classmates/band buddies to reunite. Will “Marsha and the Electrical Crushed Velvet Freeway” hit the comeback trail? Did Jerry Garcia inhale?
“My Dead Uncle’s Band” is indicative of the current mockumentary craze sweeping independent film. Digital video is an ideal medium for such “is it real or is it Spinal Tap” parodies, where crude, immediate, documentary awkwardness is part of the charm (and inexpensive, to boot).
But unlike, say, “G-Sale,” a 2003 Seattle take-off on yard sale culture, “My Dead Uncle’s Band” has a big problem. It’s not funny. In fact, it’s not amusing in any way, shape, or form.
Portly Johnny Volcano being harassed by an overzealous groupie? Screamingly un-funny. Abby’s explanation that her parents died in a zoo accident (“they thought it was a petting zoo”)? As sidesplitting as a colostomy bag explosion. Pseudo-psychedelic blue screen scene breaks in which Abby swims through clouds and sprints across rainbow-drenched backdrops? As knee slapping as prostate surgery.
“My Dead Uncle’s Band” has the amateurish, homemade look of a novelty pet project assembled by longtime friends. If you’re in it, or grew up with a cast member, the film might prompt guffaws at a progressive dinner or Christmas Party. Beyond that, viewers will be crying “Uncle” long before this dead-on-arrival misfire concludes.