Orenthal: The Musical Review

★★★☆ A


Directed by Jeff Rosenberg
Written by Jeff Rosenberg
Jordan Kenneth Kamp: Eugene
Malcolm Barrett: Lawrence
Larisa Oleynik: Regina
Owiso Odera: Orlando
Mimi Michaels: Amy
Paul Scheer: Dr. Love
Jessica Andres: Hyo
Bianca DeGroat: Dietrich
Sarah Hagan: Stan
Ben Begley: Dan
Ewan Chung: Qui
Original Music by James Sizemore
Cinematography by Andrew Mueller
Film Editing by Spencer Houck

Sometimes, weird people are the most respected in the industry; so much so that one will do anything just to please them and trust in their methods. Such is the story of Eugene Olivier (Jordan Kenneth Kamp) in this quirky mockumentary. Eugene is heralded as the putting on multiple Broadway successes, in which he did everything on the playbill, which just makes you wonder why he has yet to win a Tony. Now, he decides to move out to L.A. in an attempt to reunite with his old friends Lawrence (Malcolm Barrett) and Regina (Larisa Oleynik). Once there, he contacts Lawrence about putting on Othello as a musical. He rounds up a crack team of musicians and dancers (he just finds street performers and piano salesmen) to help him write the next great American musical. However, instead of simply adapting Shakespeare’s classic, Eugene twists the Bard’s tale to tell the story of O.J. Simpson. That’s right: Eugene is putting on an O.J. Simpson musical. He then casts Regina in the lead as Nicole, while Lawrence is given a supporting role and enlisted as a producer.
Lawrence is quick to find funding from Horizon Theater Company by choosing to ignore the O.J. part of the story. Other cast members include the Julliard-trained Orlando (Owiso Odera) as the titular lead and Hyo (Jessica Andres) as Judge Ito, along with Amy (Mimi Michaels), the stage manager with a tendency to undress at inappropriate times. It all seems okay, except that Regina is being courted by Orlando, which Eugene sees as a betrayal, as she was once his high school sweetheart, back in the day. However, more than anything though, Eugene is insane,
I won’t ruin anything for the readers, but I will say that this is a seriously funny movie that attempts to combine The Producers and Spinal Tap with the production value of American Movie, a documentary about a terrible filmmaker who thinks he’s great trying to make a horror flick. Plus, the insanity you might see in a Todd Phillips film. They’re pretty successful at it, too. Here’s why.
For starters, the cast largely composed of straight characters, has to deal with Eugene, which Kamp goes all out on, unleashing his full insanity. I am not going to be alone in comparing Kamp’s performance to that of Zach Galifinakis’s better works – in fact, there are moments when the two are interchangeable; however, Gakifinakis tends to rely on deadpan in a way that just wouldn’t suit this film. Eugene may start out like a lovable oaf, but he quickly descends into madness and gets quite unlikable. This may be a comedy, but when he’s not being funny, Kamp plays it straight, which allows us to better feel for (or, in some cases, against) his wacky character.
The script is another area where the film simply succeeds. It’s very funny. Sometimes, it’s because of what is happening; others, it’s because of why it’s happening, but it always comes out funny in the end. Be it the hilarious staging of the musical numbers or Eugene’s work ethic, this movie is funny.
Now, admittedly, some of the minor characters could have used a bit more depth, and I would have liked to have seen Amy’s nudism (among other things) become more frequently recurring jokes. Writer-director Jeff Rosenberg made no attempt to explain why a documentary crew was following Eugene, but that’s not what he’s concerned with. All-in-all, this movie really works. Certainly, this isn’t movie everyone is going to like, but, among its genre, this is a smart, funny movie with a surprising, emotional tinge and one I recommend making an effort to see.

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