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Review: The Strip

The Strip
Photo: Truly Indie

The generic electronics-schilling buddies of The Strip are so good-natured in their pathos and naïve in their sad-sack approach to suburban malaise that one almost feels bad dumping on them—not because their puerile dilemmas seem affectingly real (a cuckolded franchise manager’s midlife crisis is but one of the film’s contrived cracks at dramedy), but because the actors and writer-director Jameel Khan, much more so than the characters they depict, exude a rare, almost unthinkable innocence. The storyline, which feels more like a perfunctory collection of thin B plots than a proper narrative, revolves around a group of lump-headed male peons at a poor man’s RadioShack, their semi-significant others (Khan forces one South East Asian member of the staff to fret over a sitcom-grade arranged marriage), and their hapless, unhappily married supervisor (an eerily graying and potbellied Dave Foley, whose genteel senescence occasionally reminds us of an elderly Michael Murphy). The unrealistic aspirations and Oedipal intimidations of this crew reek of second-rate primetime fodder (one employee is the chain store owner scion, an underwhelming cross he bears with the perverse aversion of a wannabe iconoclast) and the already skewered-clean strip mall milieu, from which the film derives its misleadingly raucous title, draws more attention to the Judd Apatow elephant in the twentysomething comedy-drama room than is wholly necessary. Still, the film’s (very soft) PG-13 sensibilities could not be any more distant from the misogynist locker room of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a distinction that produces surprisingly likeable banter; these no-nothings also stave off ennui by insulting customers for wanting only the “cheap” merchandise on display (a daintily ironic sequence, considering that the store carries no recognizable brands), but they’re more likely to bandy about the shriveled detritus of their youthful pseudo-goals than threaten a DVD recording of Michael McDonald with sodomy or carnage. But while Khan nails a hitherto unrecognized psychology of sweetness in this coming-of-age, recession-bound generation, he limns it with such yawn-inducing clichés (one talentless boy wants to be an actor, another simply wants some Zach Braff-esque time to “find” himself while putzing around with a local darling) that even Foley seems mundanely familiar. It’s clear that Khan cares deeply about the characters that populate The Strip, but most of them aren’t worth his, or our, time.

Cast: Dave Foley, Rodney Scott, Billy Aaron Brown, Federico Dordei, Jenny Wade, Cory Christmas, Noureen DeWulf, Chelcie Ross, Gail Rastorfer Director: Jameel Khan Screenwriter: Jameel Khan Distributor: Truly Indie Running Time: 91 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2009

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