DVD Review: Awful Nice

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Todd Sklar | CAST: James Pumphrey, Alex Rennie, Christopher Meloni, Keeley Hazell, Laura Ramsey, Brett Gelman
DVD RELEASE DATE: 5/6/2014 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
SPECS: R | 88 min. | Comedy | 1.77:1 widescreen | stereo

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



If Todd Sklar’s Awful Nice were a Judd Apatow comedy, it would star Seth Rogen and Andy Samberg as two loveable but dysfunctional brothers who go through a series of drunken mishaps, only to realize there are no ties that bind stronger than those of brotherly love. You’d laugh a little, cry a little, recognizing aspects of yourself within the characters, eventually returning home a little wiser and softer. Supposedly.

Though Awful Nice is actually about such sibling relations, it thankfully avoids the overused Apatow formula, basing much of its comedy on the ugly, unapologetically violent relationship between these two brothers­ nicely played by James Pumphrey (elder brother Jim) and Alex Rennie (younger brother Dave.) The story takes them to the surreal, mini­-Vegas of Branson, Missouri, where they spend the entire film trying to rebuild their sole inheritance: a run­down house left to them by their recently­-deceased father.

Awful Nice movie scene

James Pumphrey and Alex Rennie are Awful Nice.

It’s not much of a plot to hang your hat on, and it ends up being the film’s biggest weakness—a lack of narrative that fails to carry the characters into any interesting emotional territory. Be that as it may, Dave and Jim’s constant “I love you, man, I hate you man” bickering somehow manages to win you over during its 88-­minute run. Dave, especially, is such a short­sighted hedonist that his constant quest for a quick fix (whether it be beer or prostitutes) is so relentless, you’re forced to sit back and appreciate the absurdity of his situations.

There are plenty of poorly­ written narrative elements that are haphazardly shoved in to push the story forward, but they don’t get in the way of the comedy, which often falls under the category of slapstick as the brothers constantly beat the shit out of each other. Whereas the Apatow version would have kept things saccharine, playing them off as “lovable losers,” Sklar’s film doesn’t pull any punches. The viciousness is real and shocking when you first encounter it, and it remains that way throughout the last scene. They’re somewhat likeable, but from a distance, the film doesn’t try to dismiss their dysfunction as “cute.” It’s pretty clear these guys have issues.

What those issues are, or how they might be resolved is not something Awful Nice really cares to ponder. It sticks to the comedy, which makes the film entertaining enough, but also prevents it from being something more. Some of the jokes are hilarious, most are merely decent, but not so funny that you’re busting a gut. It’s a fun romp, but by the end you’re just as happy to be done with Jim and Dave as they are to be done with each other.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.