Elliot (Jason Dohring) is back in his hometown for the first time in years, in order to attend a high school reunion. At the end of senior year, he and his best friend Sonny had a falling out that's lasted until the present day, and Elliot, driven by his lack of success elsewhere in life, is determined to bury the hatchet with his old pal. Unfortunately for Elliot, he finds everyone but Sonny: his other friend Gary (Brian McElhaney), his obnoxious brother Calvin (Nick Kocher), and his gorgeous ex Eden (Minka Kelly), who tells him Sonny's gone missing. Suddenly, he and his friends are tied up in a frantic investigation into Sonny's disappearance, and its mysterious ties to the play Sonny wrote -- the same one that caused Sonny and Elliot to fight in the first place.
Without giving too much away, it's a little too easy to see the gist (if not the specifics) of what's going to happen almost immediately. Elliot is a bit of a burn-out, Gary is a blubbering chicken and Calvin is aggravating. These are not the three smartest detectives who ever lived, so the conclusions they arrive at and how they arrive at them are more told than revealed, and their ultimate discovery is pretty obvious. This might be okay if Sonny was a funnier comedy, but with the exception of McElhaney (whose perpetual flop sweat is more amusing than it has any right to be), this earns more smiles than actual laughs. The character of Calvin also threatens to sink the movie at any moment: he's The Audience Favorite, a loudmouth dope whose every move is calculated to be as outraaaageous as possible, because isn't that just hilarious? To his credit, Kocher only plays him 70% as loud and smug as is possible, which barely keeps the role in "tolerable" territory.
The story of Searching For Sonny is laid out by a narrator (Clarke Peters). I've been re-watching "Arrested Development" recently, so I may be biased, but the tongue-in-cheek tone of the voice-over and split-second edits of visual information or repeated music cues as gags feel indebted to that show. The direction does deserve some praise, particularly for the occasional jump to a flashback or a vision, which make good use of color and negative space to create something visually interesting (without spending a dime). On the other hand, many non-fantasy sequences do seem sparse or cheap, such as the aggressive close-ups of Elliot alone in his apartment at the beginning of the movie.
We live in an era in which most films are repurposed, regurgitated, remade, rebooted. Everything looks or sounds like something that came before it, and what was once a hat tip or a wink has become the fabric from which films are constructed. Searching For Sonny is far from a bad movie, but it's derivative in the most distressing way: it seems like nobody even considered that you could make this movie without framing it inside a film noir or including geeky references, or that more time ought to be spent on making the characters feel complete than on the pleasant visual style.
The Blu-Ray, Video and Audio
Outtakes get a whole section to themselves. First, a standard gag reel (4:18) packs in the usual flubs and crack-ups. "Calvin Hates Gary" (1:10) is an amusing line-o-rama of Kocher's ad-libs about the Gary character, then Gary himself takes the spotlight in a reel of romantic confessions called "Gary Loves Eden" (2:06). Finally, "Smelling Salts" (2:05) illustrates Dohring's struggle to get through a take of a specific scene without laughing.
Video extras finish with a very funny "Must Love Bears" (3:05) PSA, on a cause close to Andrew Disney's heart, and "Nick and Brian Audition" (5:25), which is -- wait for it -- footage of Nick and Brian auditioning.
Last but not least, there's an audio commentary by director/writer Andrew Disney and director of photography Jeff Waldron. As one would expect, given that the DP participated and the movie was shot for cheap, the commentary skews pretty technical, going into the tricks and strategies employed to make the movie look as good as it does for the money available. Probably of more interest for filmmakers than fans -- did nobody think to record a cast commentary for this one?
An original trailer and a Kickstarter Trailer are included on the disc. I also found several easter eggs (1:13, 1:24, 0:25, 4:04) scattered around the disc. A "Thanks For Watching" (0:21) farewell wraps everything up.