23 June 2014 | rooprect
If "Dumb & Dumber" were made by an artsy European director...
"Prince Avalanche" is a great cinema experience for just about everyone. It begins as the ultimate road movie (literally, a pair of mismatched Texans spend their summer painting roads) but quickly takes a detour into a world of visual poetry, provocative characterizations and deep introspection. And all the while it manages to maintain a sense of brainless comedy that the storyline & DVD cover might lead us to expect.
In spite of its grand visual setting in the majesty & desolation of fire-ravaged Texas, this is a very minimalistic production with just 2 main characters, 2 supporting characters and 10 or 20 miles of desolate Texas roads in the aftermath of the 1987 wildfires (it was actually filmed at the site of the 2012 Batstrop County fire). Being set in the 80s adds to the comedy & charm of this quirky flick. Be prepared to see Paul Rudd sporting a very "Magmum P.I." moustache and white tube socks with those 3 funky colored stripes at the top.
There aren't a lot of big gags but instead the humor comes from the low-key bizarre dialogues between our 2 leads, "Alvin" (Paul Rudd) who is the self appointed leader because he's the self-proclaimed smarter of the two, and "Lance" (Emile Hirsch) who isn't the brightest doorknob. The laughs hinge on the weirdness of their discussions much like the hilariously strange banter between John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction".
In all, "Prince Avalanche" is an excellent show of what the French philosophers might call "La Comedy Humaine" with its poignant look at human nature. And at the same time the movie isn't so heady that it's above an occasional brainless laugh, like having the two fight & chase each other through the forest with axes.
I wanted to mention 2 trivial tidbits in case you're interested in stuff like this: (1) The filmmakers note that no animals were harmed, so the occasional scenes of roadkill, fishing and what looked like a small skinned monkey for dinner were apparently props (this is good to know as a lot of indie films slip under the AHA radar and use real animals to save money on special effects), and (2) the excellent performance by supporting actress Joyce Payne (the woman in the ruins) was actually an unscripted addition to the film when they met Joyce, an actual ex-resident, while filming. As you will see, her character becomes pivotal to the story & meaning of the film, reminding us that great moments in cinema do often happen by accident.
"Prince Avalanche" is rated R which surprised me since there is no nudity, not much profanity and no violence. There are 1 or 2 dialogues about sexual situations which might get a bit racy for the kiddies, but other than that, this is a tame film. I highly recommend it to fans of Jim Jarmusch ("Down By Law", "Coffee & Cigarettes") and Wim Wenders ("Million Dollar Hotel", "Lisbon Story", "Alice in the Cities").