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By Sommer Browning | April 8, 2004

I’m a sucker for so-called “mockumentaries.” They’re charming, usually outlandish, and you never have to worry if anyone is getting exploited. “NBT” is no exception. The film centers on the members of the Mesa Frozen Entrée Enthusiasts’ Club, a club for frozen TV dinner collectors, as they plan to hold the world’s first Frozen Entrée Enthusiasts’ Convention—a major deal. As you might imagine, the members of the club are a motley mix of oddballs and losers and, as it turns out, Super Christians, at least in name. Shawn (Sean Anders), the club leader, is a dental hygienist and the “bad-boy” front man for a hard-core Christian rock band. The club’s web page designer, Shelly (Shelly Frasier), is a wait-until-marriage Christian girl who has a thing for Shawn. There’s Matt (Charles Arnold), a hilarious safety and efficiency expert, Scott (S. Joseph Isham), a Christian ex-gay gay firefighter, a rich show-off named Vince (Mike Gordon) who aims to take control of the club, and of course, the classic vile, drunken, deaf brother, Chris (John Morris), among others. Every character is fantastically skewed and innocently sick. Shelly (Frasier) really stands out; despite the fact her character is by far the most stereotypical. The “footage” of her at work, as an abstinence counselor at the William Jefferson Clinton Abstinence Center, is frighteningly convincing and quite funny.
As we’re introduced to the various members of the club, which is more than half the fun of “NBT,” we become privy to all the emotional drama within it. While some of the intrigues are clever, some of the questions they provoke tend to be uninteresting. Will Shelly (Frasier) lose her virginity? Will Scott (Isham), the ex-gay Christian, stay that way? Will Shawn’s (Anders) hubris ultimately be his downfall?
But as I said, I’m a sucker. And even when the characters get too predictable and the plot thickens Hollywood-style, the hilarious, dead-on details make everything better. From the sketch of a very disturbed Jesus hanging in Shelly’s (Frasier) cubicle to the fetus-shaped coffee stirrers at the No Choice Café, a swinging Pro-Lifer hangout. Towards the end of the film, the details can become too self-conscious and conspicuous, for example the five or six different shots of characters reading faux magazines like American Chastity or Trophy Wife, but for the most part they’re so imaginative and fun, I’m delighted.
As is the case with all fictional documentary-style films, you can’t watch “NBT” without thinking of Christopher Guest. And it’s obvious “NBT” owes a tremendous amount to his films. “NBT” seems influenced by Guest’s emphasis on character, but without the loving sweetness. And the scene of Scott (Isham) presenting his decorative plate collection seems a direct reference to scenes in both “Spinal Tap” and “Waiting for Guffman.” Guest found a formula for his films that works and charms the hell out of you and though “NBT” is too funny and bizarre to come off as just another knockoff, at times it comes pretty close. Needless to say, I’m willing to turn the other cheek.

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