Todd W. Langen was one of those countless aspiring writers who had dreams
of working in Hollywood. The difference between Todd and nearly all
of the rest was that he actually managed to break in and write some movies.
He penned the first two live-action TMNT movies and was a story
editor and writer on the first two seasons of the Wonder Years.
The latter earned him an Emmy nomination. Fast forward a number of
years and after traveling the world for years the pile of cash from those
assignments is nearly gone. (An unusual way to blow the money.
Most people in Hollywood would have wasted it snorting coke off a hooker's
ass, but Todd's an unusual guy.) His next step? Make a movie
all by himself. The result? 42 Story House, a 90 minute
film composed of the many 1-4 minute shorts that Todd made over the course
of a year. While no one will accuse this of being high art, the disc
does contain some funny bits that work quiet well. While the A/V
quality isn't spectacular, it's very good for a solo effort, and this is
a substance-over-style project anyway. Langen decided to go for content
over flash, which makes him the anti-Michael Bay.
movie, as you'll probably guess from the title, consists of 42 films, all
made by Langen without any help. They're all comic shorts and while
some of them will leave you thinking "Yeah, okay." There are many good
laughs on this disc, which is more than you can say for Norbit.
While the introduction and the second film were mildly amusing, the
first truly inspired short is the third one; A Foreign Breakfast.
Making fun of pretentious European movies, Langen gets everything right
from the impenetrable symbolism to the fatalistic outlook on life.
All in under two minutes. I laughed several times and after
this I was sold on the project.
great segment is When Toilet Paper Rolls Find Out, in which, well,
toilet paper rolls find out just what they're used for, and they don't
like it. How Small Appliances are Conceived is creative use
of editing and sound effects to show what happens when a washer and dryer
are left to their own devices (no pun intended.) A personal favorite
of mine is I, Narrator in which the overused technique of first
person narration gets its comeuppance.
A couple of the pieces ran a little long with the joke being presented
a bit too early or the idea being milked a little too much. Survival
of the Needless, where a man tries to survive in his house all alone
for a week, was one such piece. The idea was cute but it wasn't as
lean-and-mean as some of the other segments. While this was a bit
long, it contained one of my favorite jokes. When assessing what
resources he had at his disposal the main character comes across a DVD
of "Contemporary American Movie" which he proceeds to use as a coaster.
Even though this was all done by one guy with consumer equipment, the
result is surprisingly sophisticated. Langen puts some special effects
in the films which work better than one would think. The green screen
and stop motion work while a bit crude fit in really well and look good.
This DVD is available only from the creator's web site. It's only
10 bucks, including shipping, and comes in a white DVD sleeve rather than
a case since it's more economical that way.
On the good side, this film does have audio. One the bad side,
well, it's not that great. The audio quality was very thin and tinny,
and there were some pops and clicks over the course of the 42 segments,
and distortion occasionally reared its ugly head. The levels were
uneven too. Sometimes the music or audio effects would be significantly
higher than the dialog which could be irritating. It was never hard
to understand what Todd was saying though, so the defects didn't ruin the
This was filmed on a high end consumer camera, and as Todd says on the
film's web site "This movie is rather best described as BD ("barely definition")."
There were some problems, but the movie actually looks much better than
I thought it would. The colors were represented fairly well, and
the image was clear and generally well defined. There was a fair
amount of blooming, especially when Todd wears white shirts outside.
Aliasing crops up here and there, and there was some edge enhancement in
sections, though it was never heavy handed. For a micro-budget one-man
movie, this looks fantastic.
Todd W. Langen has made a pretty amazing film. It's funny, creative,
and entertaining. It should be mandatory viewing for anyone who's
thinking of making their own film. 42 Story House shows just
how much you can do with a shoestring budget, a little work, and a lot
of thought and creativity. Go ahead and send this guy $10 for a disc,
it's worth it. Recommended.