12 September 2011

Movies: Drones

Drones (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1232775/

Comedy

Brian works in an office, an office the manager has compared to a bee hive, hence the title "Drones". Brian has developed a crush on Amy, co-worker. When Brian goes to the store-room to get her some staples he discovers Clark in the store-room talking to his home planet; Clark is an extra terrestrial.
Clark tries to play it down as no big deal, he's just an observer. After some conversation Clark admits yes, his home planet has plans to invade and enslave Earth. Except Clark really likes the planet the way it is and has single-handedly been delaying the invasion.  While grappling with that knowledge Brian wonders if other co-workers are extra terrestrials also. But it is tough to distinguish the Earthlings from the E.Ts.

Stars some actors you may or may not recognize, their familiarity hinges on exposure to a range of TV and film.  I think the 'biggest' castmember would probably be Angela Bettis, who's been a supporting actress in a few feature films and TV series. Followed by Samm Levine, who plays Clark. His most notable work was "Freaks & Geeks" and  "Inglorious Basterds".  "Buffy" and "Angel" fans might recognize Jonathan Woodward, who plays Brian. They may be familiar, but not well-known faces.
The script was written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker. They head up the "Thrilling Adventure Hour" stage show and podcast. It's a stage production in the style of old-time radio. The podcast is amusing, has some big name guest stars in many of their productions. I heard of the film because I heard they wrote the script for it.  When I saw it was playing on Showtime I set up the TiVo to grab me a showing.
The film was directed by Amber Benson and Adam Busch. Again, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alums. Joss Whedon's influence tendrils are reaching in many directions.

Comparing the film to "Office Space" is probably unavoidable.  My first thought was "Office Space" with extra-terrestrials. The comparison actually isn't fair to "Drones". True, the whole of "Drones" takes place in the office environment, is a comedy, and is a layered metaphor for cubicles and people to bee-hive activity, drones, etc. But that's about all the similarity. If you continue the comparison "Drones" will be disappointing next to the crushing greatness of "Office Space" and probably panned as such.

If you can get past the unfair comparison, "Drones" isn't terrible and can be appreciated on its own merit. A lot of the dialog keeps an amusing tongue-in-cheek feel, brings about a few chuckles. Based on the ending I got the impression they wrote themselves into a corner and, considering the budget, had to come up with an "out" that could play in the same office floor where the rest of the film takes place.  I'm not sure how much feature-length writing they've done, most of their "Thrilling Adventure Hour" skit episodes are 15-20 minutes long, so I don't know if that had impact on resolving the story.

For a low-budget comedy it is amusing, it is quirky, it is entertaining in a way that is bigger than its small budget and guerrilla production style. Probably won't be a classic, might get labeled as a 'comedian's comedy film'. I think it might also be a stretching of the wings for the Bens Acker & Blacker, a dipping of the toe into feature-length film writing. Perhaps it will get them enough notice for future bigger projects.

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