Pizza: The Movie

I’ll be honest, writing bad reviews can be fun. Seeing a movie you love and then babbling endlessly about it to others is its own kind of reward, but opening up with both barrels offers a different kind of perverse joy; a kind of sarcastic freedom that you just can’t use in your writing anywhere else. Ripping deservingly bad dreck to pieces can be a blast, but sometimes it’s just dismally rough. This is one of those times when it feels like a punch in the gut.

I like the guys behind Pizza the Movie on a personal level. Director/Writer Donald Gregory has been a good contributor on the CB Forums for several months now, even managing to wrangle some of his cast into coming by and hanging out as well. They’re nice guys, with a great sense of humor about their film. Donald has laughed congenially along with us as we take gentle potshots at his trailer; letting our sarcastic Pizza the Movie references wash over him with a chuckle. His cast too, is composed of just flat out good people, people who get their place on the cinematic landscape and have no problem settling in and being comfortable with it. They make you want to like this movie, even love it. But instead I have to sit here and tell you that Pizza the Movie is all out awful, and I’m feeling guilty as hell about it. I suppose though, that being honest is just part of my job.

Pizza the Movie is shoe string budgeted indie, made for nothing, with no big profit expected. With a purse of only ten thousand dollars, you have to presumably make certain sacrifices, like indiscriminately hiring just about anyone who will work for free. I suspect they’d have a hard time getting Harrison Ford. But when talking about whether it’s a good movie, I never feel comfortable in using budget as an excuse for bad acting, or time constraints as an excuse for shoddy editing. Pizza is what it is, take it or leave it.

What it is seems to be is part Clerks, part Encino Man, only without the benefit of Kevin Smith’s genius dialogue writing or a sexy caveman (unless you count Jason Muzie). The story is that of Kevin Miller (Craig Wisniewski), high school graduate, library employee, perennial loser slacker. A guy of limited income and even more limited social skills, he’s hopelessly in love with a babe (Eva Conrad) from his public school past who of course doesn’t even know he exists. Rather than simply knock on her door and introduce himself Kevin allows his best friend and roommate, a pizza delivery guy named Barry (Jason Muzie), to push him into a variety of humiliating schemes. Many of these seem to inexplicably involve the delivering of pizza.

I guess I should give Gregory some credit for creating an independent film bereft of snobbery and high fallutin intentions. So often low budget indie directors get caught up on their high horse, steeped in off-putting seriousness and drowning in self-righteous preachiness. Gregory stands for none of that and has opted instead to attempt the creation of something simply silly and entertaining. He’s trying to deliver an offbeat and humble comedy, which even if it doesn’t work deserves praise simply for not making me want to vomit through an overload of sanctimonious prattle.

The thing is, for all its good intentions, Pizza the Movie is just unforgivably sloppy. Some of that is no doubt the result of budget, but again, I’m not here to make excuses, only tell you what you’ll see. The editing is choppy and more than once I saw scenes that needed a good four or five more takes. Craig has a mysterious pimple (bordering on a cyst) which randomly appears from one scene to the next. All of the actors could use a few layers of Mary Kay makeup and I’m almost certain that more than once I caught Jason Muzie drooling. Most of Pizza the Movie feels less like a movie than it does a High School play, faintly reminiscent of a particularly failed production I once helped put on in which the big joke was a guy confusing a Q-Tip for his hypodermic needle.

Most of the actors in this movie should never be allowed to act again. Some, like Craig show some glimmers of potential and hey, you never know, he could progress and end up wandering around in Hollywood. At times he bears a striking resemblance to a thinner version of Sean Astin, not that he’ll be playing “Rudy” any time soon. Daniela Mangialardo turns in a decent performance as a tough delivery chick. But it’s hard to see what she’s doing when her eyes are constantly shadowed by a tightly worn cap. Others, like Jason Muzie don’t so much act as fling them selves about in a seizure like fashion. I think the intention here was to have Muzie serve as comic relief, but instead he makes you wish for death. Muzie has actually accomplished something pretty special. Barry may be one of the most annoying characters in the history of film. Half Pauly Shore, half much maligned Star Wars kid, he’s aiming for quirky and eccentric but achieves something more akin to uber-geek serial killer.

Pizza works best when the boys are running around delivering pizza, facing up to wacky pizza delivery scenarios which I guess I found amusing since I used to be one. Whether those of you who had your college tuition paid by daddy will or not is something else. Still, they achieve a watered down clerks dynamic when hanging out in the pizza parlor or hopping in and out of their cars scrounging for change. Maybe if Gregory had just abandoned the romantic plot device entirely and focused solely on the exciting world of Pizza delivery he might have had something. Toss out all the scenes of love advice from Barry; trash the weirdly filmed bits in their unconvincing suburban house. That might be a little more bearable. As it is, Pizza is an unforgiving wreck. Smoke a little pot and maybe it’ll give you the giggles. Watch it any other time and you probably won’t be able to take more than five minutes.