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Review: Lucky Stiff

Its irritatingly saccharine tone is such that it shuns grappling with certain characters’ dubious and perverse behaviors.

Lucky Stiff
Photo: Abramorama

Lucky Stiff presents a purposely artificial and dreamlike vision of Europe, yet its irritatingly saccharine tone is such that it shuns grappling with certain characters’ dubious and perverse behaviors. Based on the musical of the same name, Christopher Ashley’s seemingly irony-averse film follows lonely shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon (Dominic Marsh) as he inherits six million dollars from a deceased uncle, Tony, he never knew he had. Only in order to receive the money, Harry must take Tony, dolled-up to look alive, to Monte Carlo to fulfill the dead man’s dream, all the while being pursued by the uncle’s loose-cannon lover, Rita (Pamela Shaw). Throughout, Ashley’s aesthetic constantly tries to top itself in whimsy, most notably in the Adobe Flash-esque animations that interact with the actors. They may bring life to the characters’ innermost emotions, but they’re so awkward and poorly rendered that they only succeed at unintentionally distracting from the plodding and lifeless musical numbers. Worse than the climactic plot twist being telegraphed—by way of Dennis Farina’s unmistakable Midwestern patois—before Harry even reaches Monte Carlo is how the film effectively portrays Rita’s ruthless actions as charmingly goofy antics. Her killing of the man first thought to be Tony, after she believed he was sleeping with another woman, is essentially justified as being an extension of her love for him. But, then again, a denouement in which cold-blooded murder acts as a sappy romantic gesture is unsurprising, considering it comes after scenes that try vainly to milk laughs out of implied pedophilia between Harry and Tony, as well as Rita giving a frenzied lap dance to a corpse.

Cast: Dominic Marsh, Nikki M. James, Pamela Shaw, Jason Alexander, Dennis Farina, Don Amendolia Director: Christopher Ashley Screenwriter: Lynn Ahrens Distributor: Abramorama Running Time: 78 min Rating: NR Year: 2014 Buy: Video

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