“The Brass Teapot” is a miswritten dark comedy helmed by Ramaa Mosley, a director better known for her music videos, commercials, and documentary work, who is now trying to get funding for a sophomore effort (I assume it’s the thriller “Nelson,” from a screenplay by “Teapot” scribe Tim Macy, that sounds like a variation of “The Words” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”). Despite what I don’t like in her first feature, I think she’s got decent directing skills and can handle actors well, but she made a poor choice in her story, basically a one joke affair that falls into the “be careful what you wish for” fantasy sub-genre.
The titular object in the film is a mystical, indestructible artifact with apparent Jewish ancestry dating back to the 1st century. Its current whereabouts is Laurel Springs, a very small, friendly community somewhere in Indiana (the film was shot in Kingston, New York, home of Keegan Ales brewery, although Corona Extra is imbibed on screen), where a young woman has stolen it from a a wayside antiques store. That long-haired blonde would be the college educated, most-likely-to-succeed-but-still-unemployed Alice Macy (Juno Temple) and her klutzy, wimpy, soon-to-be-fired telemarketing salesman husband John (Michael Angarano). You’ll recall their faces from dozens of featured roles, few of which you can probably name, except maybe “Killer Joe,” the creepy 2011 crime thriller in which Matthew McConaughey has Temple doing nasty things for him (a good primer for the film at hand). Anyway, they’re a cute couple in real life, too.
Television fans of “Gilmore Girls” will fawn over Alexis Bledel as the film’s self-obsessed rich bitch (without use of the teapot, but with some surgical enhancements), and “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer has a small role. Some of the supporting cast have moved up the recognition ladder. Billy Magnussen (longtime heart throb from “As the World Turns”) playing the redneck landlord Arnie, is featured as one of the Princes in “Into the Woods,” while Bobby Moynihan as John’s best friend Chuck, is a regular on “Saturday Night Live.” Poor Alia Shawkrat (“Arrested Development”) gets a few good lines but not much else.
The power of the teapot has apparently been mishandled by generals, dictators, supreme leader Kim Jong-un (only kidding!), and despots throughout the ages. All have succumbed to its powers—allowing its possessor(s) to become filthy rich by twisting the phrase “bang for your buck.” It explains why people have been so violent, nasty, and greedy all these years. Under its lid there’s moolah galore, as long as you do something that inflicts bodily or emotional harm on yourself, your spouse, your relatives, your friends, your enemies, the kid skateboarding down the street, the world. The more sadistic and evil, the more this perpetual popcorn popper pumps out endless reams of money.
In its current iteration, it offers the down-on-their-luck couple magically minted crisp $100 dollar bills. Yep, the damned vessel just forges out lovely Benjamin Franklins with alarming frequency as Alice and John escalate their dirty business. I guess its sophisticated GPS and anti-counterfeiting sensors allow the couple to become filthy rich with AMERICAN money, despite its centuries-old origins. It’s quite the app if it’s handling all those controlled serial numbers and security engravings without detection.
As the black-and-blue story progresses and Alice and John inch their way, ever so endearingly, toward a possible Bonnie and Clyde finish (with sugar on top), two Hassidic Jews and one mysterious Asian gentleman pop in and out of the film. They’re trying to put a lid on the pot’s evil emanations, having been able to trace the pot via an “Antiques Roadshow” appearance. Money grabbing and gunfire ensue.
I’m left wondering: Doesn’t a teapot have better things to do than force its demonic will on others, including an innocent, naive couple? Actually, I’m not wondering about that at all. I prefer coffee.