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SANTA BARBARA: A look at the new cut of SURVIVING EDEN starring The Dink!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here... boy, have I been slacking off this festival! I didn't think I was, but this guy's putting me to shame! I've got a whole lotta pics from the big events (DiCaprio award thingy, Paul Giamatti's conversation with Elvis Mitchell and that amazing writers panel that was reported about yesterday with folks like Brad Bird, Charlie Kaufman, Jose Rivera, Bill Condon, etc). I'll be writing all those up (hopefully) tonight. In fact, I'm off to a movie here in about an hour, but before I hit the SBIFF for today, I thought I'd put up this review for SURVIVING EDEN with Peter Dinklage and a horde of really funny people. I liked the cut I saw last March at SXSW, but it had some pacing issues. I've heard this cut is much tighter with more Dink which makes me happy. The Dink rules. The below reviewer, however, thinks it still needs some tweaks. Anyway, here's the review! (Oh, and that wasn't me at Kung Fu Hustle... must have been my evil clone I've had running around causing chaos and mayhem in its wake! I'm gonna see Kung Fu Hustle later this week!)

Howdy AICN fellows,

First of all, a brief get-well message to the Large One from everyone here in sunny Santa Barbara.

I know Quint is here reporting on stuff (I think he was a few people ahead of me, in the front of the Kung Fu Hustle line yesterday), but even a seaman as crusty as he is can't hit ALL the films, so I thought I would pipe in.

I saw the world premiere of the final cut of Surviving Eden. Quint reviewed a early print of this one at SXSW, but I figured I would give an update. Plus, director Greg Pritikin (Dummy) and lead actor Michael Panes (The Anniversary Party) were there for some Q&A after the film, which is always a hoot.

To review briefly, the movie is a mockumentary about a Survivor-esque reality TV show called the Garden of Eden (contenstants have no clothes and are voted off the island by being given the "apple of knowledge") and centers on Dennis (Panes), an overweight, meek schlub, who eventually wins. The film is less about the show itself (we only see very funny clips of it peppered throughout the movie) than it is about the brutal expiration of Dennis' 15 minutes of fame after he wins.

This film is at is best in the first hour, when we meet Dennis and learn about his idiosyncrasies (one of the best running gags in the film is how he plays the violin while on the crapper- genius stuff there), and about his relationships with the other characters (like his best friend Sterno, played brilliantly by Peter Dinklage, and his crush on fellow contestant and nun, Sister Agnes, played by the rockin' hot Angelina Jolie clone, Savannah Haske).

There are still problems with pacing. The film is less funny as it morphs from a subtle and clever character study into a cautionary tale about how Hollywood is unkind to the average Joe. By then, Pritikin lets some of the characters get a little one-dimensional, and we have to endure a stereotypical Vh-1-behind-the-music-nightmare-descent-into-drugs-and-alcohol vibe. But these moments are forgivable on the whole, as Panes turns in a great performance. Cheri Oteri makes her presence in the film known as well, and is actually super funny once she realizes that she doesn't have to scream or look consitpated to get laughs.

Pritikin and Panes seemed like nice enough guys during the Q&A. It was interesting to learn that Pritikin was the musical director for the film as well (the music, overall, was a great fit in the movie) and that Panes actually is an accomplished violinist who recorded much of the music on the soundtrack. No studio has picked this up to distribute (Pritikin said that the final print was literally completely on Friday, which may be one of the reasons). He was cagey about how much the film cost (for fear of studios low-balling him with the information), but indicated that it cost less than the price of a house in LA (he did not specify Beverly Hills vs. Compton).

There was the inevitable comparison between Surviving Eden and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, such as Waiting for Guffman. The entire film was clearly influenced by Guest's work, and it will admittedly be a tough act to follow if Pritikin is expected to compete with those gems. Still, the movie was fun, and received very well by a diverse demographic (film students, rich, Santa Baraba octagenarians, and me). I hope this one gets out.

More Later (I hope),


P.S. I also caught Kung Fu Hustle on Sunday, which kicked 8 different kinds of ass. Smart, funny, nutty, and strange. Anybody in the Santa Barbara area who hasn't seen it, should make immediate plans for one of the follow-up shows.

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