By Stina Chyn | December 10, 2004

Rob Gray’s film “Three Barbecues” is like a bucket of Jelly Belly jelly beans. There’s a wealth of flavors in every handful. Some are sweet, some tart, and a few unidentifiable but nonetheless tasty. “Three Barbecues” follows a group of friends as they attend three barbecues in one day. Each is thrown by a particular couple in the group. Based on a song called “Barbecue Nights” by Jason Drenick, Gray’s film draws strength from its quirky ensemble cast. Willie (Anthony Marquez) and Vera Wong (Rebecca May Lane) are the first to barbecue but their party ends when there’s no more beer. Miss Dinah (Quasi) and Stan (Kyle Ethan) are the second couple to host a BBQ and it’s only cut short because Beef (Clay Colton) and Candy (Lancaster Smith), the last to be hosts, must prepare for the Griller’s World Magazine tournament.
Gray’s film brims with originality in visual style and script. In collaboration with his crew in wardrobe and the art department, Gray creates a fascinating dish. From the opening credits to the set design to the costumes, the film’s motif is straight out of the 1950s and early 60s. The premise of “Three Barbecues” doesn’t necessarily call for such a zany production, but Gray wanted to have fun with it. By the end of the film, you will have witnessed, a discussion of proper barbecuing methods, a group dance number at the Wong’s where each guest displays the dish they made; a song number called “Chicken Bone Man” performed by Stan at his party; and then a live-via-satellite Iron Chef grill-off at Beef and Candy’s house.
Even though the narrative develops a particular aspect of each party-goer’s lives, the camera takes special interest in Melissa (Randy Sterns) and Chuck Gladwell (Sam Womelsdorf), documenting their every thought and move from the moment they head to the Wong’s to leaving Beef and Candy’s. For instance, the camera shoots them merrily riding their tandem bicycle from house to house and catches brief but expressive images of them alone at the barbecues.
Normally, a film that encompasses such a range of narrative elements must struggle to maintain some kind of coherency. The glue that holds “Three Barbecues” together is the characters. An especially endearing character is Deviled Egg Nut. He’s not Moe the Deviled Egg Nut or even The Deviled Egg Nut. He’s just Deviled Egg Nut and it’s fantastic. His name is very appropriate since he is in love with Candy’s deviled eggs. When he’s been uninvited to the last barbecue, he doesn’t disappear from the story. He may be disheartened, but he doesn’t give up on those deviled eggs.
Whether it satirizes or pays homage to pop-cultural icons of past and present, “Three Barbecues” is truly out of this world.

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