Review: American Cowslip A Redneck Comedy DVD

STUDIO: Barnholtz/Entertainment One | DIRECTOR: Mark David | CAST: Ronnie Gene Blevins, Val Kilmer, Diane Ladd, Rip Torn, Cloris Leachman, Bruce Dern, Peter Falk
RELEASE DATE: 9/7/10 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurette
SPECS: R | 107 min. | Comedy | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

When a movie like American Cowslip: A Redneck Comedy, filled with a cast of award winners, doesn’t just simply go straight to DVD but rather straight to a small-but-ambitious distributor like Barnholtz, it makes us curious to see just how big the train wreck is. And what a derailing! Low budget independent film catastrophes don’t get much bigger than this.

The mayhem starts with the suffocating, self-defeating plot: Ethan Inglebrink (TV actor Ronnie Gene Blevins) is a strung-out heroin addict who hasn’t gone past his front yard in nine years. He’s convinced that if he wins the Garden of the Year prize money, he’ll be able to pay his back rent to his neighbor, landlord and gardening competitor O’Hart (played in nutty costumes by the equally nutty Rip Torn, Men in Black). In reality, Ethan will just buy more heroin, which he secretly shoots up in the kitchen while visitors are in the next room. And they have no idea. Right.

Meanwhile, a trio of concerned faux aunts — the under-played, woefully wasted comedic threesome of Cloris Leachman (TV’s Raising Hope), Diane Ladd (Jake’s Corner) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) — visits on occasion, as does the 17-year-old Georgia (Hanna Hall, Halloween) who, in one of the most disturbing plot twists, wants to lose her virginity to the sweaty, emaciated, greasy-haired Ethan. Yuck!

That would mean that Ethan’s brother, lawman Todd (a very game Val Kilmer, Red Planet), would have to arrest him, which would be advisable. But Todd wants him to undergo an exorcism by the family priest (a stranger-than-ever Peter Falk, TV’s Columbo.)

Meanwhile, Bruce Dern (TV’s Big Love) plays Hanna’s abusive father, and Priscilla Barnes (The Devil’s Rejects) takes off her clothes.

The bright sets and vivid photography are the most attractive things about this independent film, and the rock soundtrack by multi-hyphenate director Mark Davis is catchy enough. But the script by David and Blevins refuses to engage, starting with the basic premise of an unapologetic junkie ruining his life. That’s not funny.

There is a commentary and featurette on the DVD, but you might want to switch off the TV after watching the movie.


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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.