...and then there's that damned teapot. Swiped from some deranged old biddy's antique shop, this brass teapot spews out crisp hundred dollar bills whenever someone in close proximity suffers. A pinch of the arm might be worth $100. Getting a tooth pulled with no anaesthetic...? Let's say $30,000. A swift knee to the groin or a full Brazilian wax...? That's a downpayment on a house right there. Bye bye, Pinto. Farewell, barely making rent on that rundown P.O.S. house. From a shiny new BMW to a gated community McMansion all the way to a line of premium vodka, the teapot makes all of Alice and John's dreams come true. All they have to do is smack either other around a little...or, well, a lot. Still, though, the payoff's way more than worth it, right? It's just that you know all about monkey paws and buttons, buttons, and it's the same deal here. A darkness within Alice and John is unleashed that they never knew was there, and as their appetites grow and the teapot's generosity diminishes, this mystical relic threatens to consume the two lovers as it has so many others throughout these many centuries...
Look, The Brass Teapot has been trashed left and right. Reviews have been at best indifferent and at worst...well, about as scathing as they get. You're about as likely to stumble upon an out-and-out positive review of The Brass Teapot as you are a mystical artifact that vomits twenty large when you accidentally whack your thumb with a hammer. I guess I'm going to be that guy who really, really dug it, though.
I walked in expecting the movie to be some unrelentingly dark Saw-type retread about a couple whose greed compels them to start hacking off each others limbs and stuff. The Brass Teapot isn't even a little bit like that, as it turns out. It's...it's darkly whimsical. It's a twisted fairy tale that plays like a mash-up of a romantic comedy, any number of your favorite installments of The Twilight Zone, and some demented, under-the-radar Sundance favorite. Movies like this tend to lean too heavily on their high concept premises as a crutch. The Brass Teapot, meanwhile, devotes a great deal of
Temple and Angarano are surrounded by a pretty terrific supporting cast that includes Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan, Jack McBrayer, and, briefly, Matt Walsh as he rocks a stuffy British accent. The movie chugs along at a steady clip and resists the urge to stay in a straight line. There are parallels to other "be careful what you wish for..." stories, sure, but with its combination of cacklingly dark comedy and sincere, intense emotions, The Brass Teapot in no way feels like a movie I've seen before. It doesn't hurt that Juno Temple is half-naked for something like half the movie, and John is about as obsessed with Saints Row The Third as I was a couple years back, so...yeah.
The Brass Teapot gets so much right that its missteps are easier to swallow. I'm not crazy about the presence of a couple of Hasidic thugs out to reclaim what they see as their birthright, and Steve Parks' role as the broken-english Chinese knight sworn to rid the world of the teapot makes me cringe a little. What's certain to most deeply offend is the suggestion that this made-up teapot is responsible for the Holocaust, and...well, there's not a whole lot more I need to say there. I can look past that, but I can certainly understand why many others can't.
I'm honestly kind in awe that The Brass Teapot works. Mashing together several different genres like this, the way it alternates between sugary sweetness and outright cruelty without feeling jarring, anchoring the movie around greedy, self-destructive characters and somehow finding a way to keep them sympathetic, a moral message about consumeristic greed that could very easily have gotten too preachy: it ought to be a recipe for disaster and then some. It's a testament to screenwriter Tim Macy and director Ramaa Mosley -- both first-time feature filmmakers! -- that they pull off by what all rights ought to be impossible. Recommended.
The Brass Teapot looks expectedly terrific on Blu-ray. The image is consistently crisp and detailed throughout, boasting a warmly saturated palette and silky smooth contrast. No overzealous noise reduction, sputters or stutters in the authoring, or
The AVC encode for The Brass Teapot spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and the presentation has been letterboxed to preserve its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
The aural end of things isn't quite so cheery, unfortunately. The Brass Teapot boasts a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, but it's basically stereo-and-then-some. The surrounds are reserved just about exclusively for reinforcing various bits of music and lobbing out some light ambiance, such as cars whizzing by in the background. Even key effects where you'd expect the rear channels to swoop in for the kill, such as a violent car wreck that sends Alice and John's Pinto careening around, are rooted entirely up front. Bass response is very modest, with the subwoofer again only groggily waking up to beef up the music a bit. A handful of more loudly shouted lines wind up sounding shrill and clipped. I mean, this isn't a bad mix by any stretch of the imagination, and all the dialogue is balanced as well as it ought to be. The Brass Teapot just sounds more like a TV movie than a shiny, richly cinematic Blu-ray disc.
No dubs or alternate soundtracks this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.
It might be worth mentioning that the cover art looks nothing like what's listed on Amazon, by the way.
The Final Word
Did I really make it this far in the review without a single "no pain, no gain" joke? Missed opportunity. Anyway, I strolled into The Brass Teapot expecting a grim, cruel, one-note shock-horror flick lazily resting on its high-concept laurels, and instead I was rewarded with a dark fairy tale that deftly executes any number of impossibly delicate balancing acts. Though its stabs at ethnic and religious humor misfire, its rewriting of history to suit its pain-rewarding magic kitchenware may make some viewers squirm in their seats, and its supporting cast isn't even a little bit well-developed, I really don't think The Brass Teapot deserves to be reviewed anywhere near as savagely as it has been. Imperfect, sure, as most things are, but very ambitious, very unique, very well-done, and very much worth discovering now that the movie has clawed its way onto Blu-ray. Recommended.