Johnny Knoxville leaves his “Jackass” career behind him and embarks on an endeavor he has yet to attempt - being the leading man. In making this movie, filmmakers took a big gamble throwing Knoxville front and center, but let me tell you, it works like gangbusters. Grand Theft Parsons is one of the ten funniest movies of the year. Since you probably missed its limited run earlier in the year it’s now available on DVD. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Over the years Johnny Knoxville has played a lot of sidekicks. He was The Rock’s deputy in Walking Tall and Lara Flynn Boyle’s two headed henchman in Men in Black II. This time around he is front and center, but playing what... A sidekick whose partner has died. How fitting is that?
Legendary musician Gram Parsons has just died from an overdose. His road manager, Phil Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville), made a pact with him regarding whoever died first: the other would cremate the body and leave the ashes in the desert. With Parsons dead, funeral arrangements are made, with Gram's father(Robert Forster) coming to pick up the body and take it back to Louisiana. Of course, Phil just couldn't live with himself if he didn't honor his buddy’s wishes, and stops at nothing, sacrificing everything to keep his promise. He hires Larry (Michael Shannon), a drugged out hippy who owns a hearse, to aid him in snatching Parsons’ body, all without actually telling Larry what is going on. Phil’s girlfriend Susie (Marley Shelton) teams up with Parsons’ gold digging mistress (Christina Applegate) to try and stop Phil before he gets in real trouble, and hot on all of their tails is Gram’s father who is tracking down the people who stole his son.
Grand Theft Parsons is an eccentric road movie that is high on concept, and excellent in execution. It’s amazing to think that this actually happened, yet the film is based on the true events of Philip Kaufman. It’s wild. Behind the camera is director David Caffrey, a brit who has yet to have stateside success. The incomparable wit of this film is unapologetic and just the right kind of loony. The dark humor is smart, and it’s only heightened by the cast’s performances. I swear, I had to press pause so many times from laughing my ass off so much I think I ruined the disc.
Knoxville gives his best performance thus far. He isn’t getting the crap kicked out of him or anything, it's all simply him reacting to the lunacy of the situations around him, and it's pure gold. Hell, he even sells the first decent fart gag I’ve seen in years. He is Phil Kaufman. Another great thing about this film is watching Michael Shannon and Knoxville constantly butt heads. The grizzled rock and roller and the spiritual hippie just tear into each other at any given moment. Watching the two is fabulous, especially when you involve the cops. Shannon has been doing little bit parts and supporting work for years. He’s most recognizable as Greg - aka the guy who was banging Kim Basinger - in 8 Mile. This film no doubt cements Shannon as being a very good character actor. I see good things for him in the future.
With "blockbuster" comedic turds like Soul Plane, Along Came Polly, and The Ladykillers this year, leave it to the indie market to make fresh with the funny. Grand Theft Parsons knocked me on my ass. I never would have expected a very good movie, let alone a funny one, from what looked to be...well....a “Johnny Knoxville movie”. The Obligatory critic quote on the front of the DVD reads: “Knoxville is a revelation”, and that's not that far from the truth.
As great as some independent films can be, the extra features on their discs typically tend to be pretty skimpy. Such is the case with this release. There are cast and crew interviews and deleted scenes, but that’s basically it. The real gem on the disc though, is the sit down chat with the real Philip Kaufman.
The deleted scenes are much like most deleted scenes on a DVD, it’s easy to see why they were cut in the first place. They throw the pacing off or over elaborate things. Nothing here is way over the top, or a weird cut storyline or anything. It's just your average deleted material from a movie.
The cast and crew interviews are a series of individual interviews with Johnny Knoxville and Christina Applegate as well as director David Caffrey and writer Jeremy Drysdale. All four dive into what the movie means to them as well as the harsh reality of having to put this real event on film. Knoxville tells humourous anecdotes from the set, Applegate speaks of how she got on board, Caffrey talks about his vision, and Drysdale reveals how he came about the story. All of which are quite unique to hear, but they should have been edited together in a little behind the scenes featurette instead of just a plain old conversation. Also, they had all those interviews, but where was Michael Shannon’s? Where was Marley Shelton’s? I would’ve liked to have heard from them. Also, you can interview the writer and director, but you can’t sit them down for a commentary? What gives?
The disc’s best feature presents the real Phil. For twenty minutes we hear the real story of what happened, from start to finish, straight out of Phil’s mouth. The guy’s swagger and way of telling the story makes you feel like it’s drunken story time at the local pub. Definitely an interesting thing to watch.
Right about now is the time when the big summer blockbusters find their way to store shelves in time for the holidays. I say: rebel from the status quo, go indie! Give Grand Theft Parsons a rent. There really is nothing else out there yet and nothing this cool is really going to come out on DVD until the new Lord of the Rings edition. Give it a try, it won’t bite. Trust me, Parsons takes the cake.