SXSW 2012 Review:
Three 14-year-olds cause all sorts of trouble in and around their
Catholic middle school.
Sounds pretty familiar, perhaps, a bit obvious, and possibly even
downright dull. I mean, who still makes movies about troublemaking teenagers
these days? First-time fraternal-twin filmmakers Kevin and Matthew McManus
just made one, and it's sort of great. Sure, it's laden with vulgar talk for
some easy laughs, but that's about where the simple stuff ends. At its best
moments, Funeral Kings is a mixture of Stand By Me, Superbad, the deservedly
obscure Heaven Help Us, and a particularly perceptive, enjoyably gritty
independent comedy that knows what it's talking about.
The town is unnamed and the era is unspecified, but our three central
characters are the baby-faced Charlie (Alex Maizus), the hyperactive Andy
(Dylan Hartigan), and the new kid in town, David (Jordan Puzzo). All aged
14, all profane, and all horny, the boys work as funeral attendants for
their school's church. Sounds like a miserable assignment, right? Nope.
Charlie, Andy, and David just wait through the service, and then take the
rest of the day off from school. (Hence the title Funeral Kings.)
Unfortunately, they also get into a bunch of trouble with a local delinquint,
several pretty girls, and a mysterious chest that's filled with unknown
Written with wonderfully vulgar insight and presented by three young
leads who are really quite excellent, Funeral Kings feels like a memoir
yanked straight from the filmmakers' (or the viewers') youth and then tossed
on to a movie screen with an alarming sense of frankness, nostalgia, and
reality. For example, I feel certain that this movie takes place in the late
'80s, and several of its best scenes feel like they came straight from my
own memory banks: the local video store, the casual cruelty that young men
often show to one another, the constant fear that everyone at the big party
is cooler than you, etc.
The brothers behind Funeral Kings obviously had a much different
childhood than I did, but their film is able to tap into some universal
truths about "misfit youth," and it presents them with an impressive amount
of truth, restraint, and humor. If I've made Funeral Kings sound like a
preachy or treacly affair, allow me to clarify: this is a very funny,
generally fast-paced, and resoundingly foul-mouthed little comedy. It's got
some edge and a little hint of darkness, but it's mostly a rather humane
tale about how boys are often forced to become "mature" at one of the most
egocentric stage of their lives. This is a good little movie.
Funeral Kings enjoyed its World Premiere at SXSW on Saturday, March 10.
It screens again later today, and on Friday, March 16.