Cheap-looking, obvious, and derivative are a few ways to describe the indie comedy Do It for Uncle Manny. But once you get used to the chintzy look, the scattershot acting performances, and the point 'n' shoot directorial style, the flick's actually kinda, almost, sorta watchable. Not really a GOOD movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's better than I could come up with for less than $200,000. (Although if I had $200,000, I'd find much better things to invest in.)
One of those wacky "all in one day" concepts, "Manny" is about two best pals: a smooth ladies man called Danny and a whining nebbish named Stuart. After a night of partying with a hottie known only as "Jenny," Dan and Stu discover something terrible: The $250,000 Rolex watch that belongs to Stuart's uncle is missing! Obviously Jenny stole the watch, but how will these two idiots get it back? (Through a lengthy and circuitous series of plot devices, convenient arrivals and wacky coincidences, that's how.)
So off run Danny and Stuart into the night, being perpetually confounded by Jenny's slick mind games and running into all sorts of gun-wavers and street thugs. It's all really strained, to be honest, and the guy playing Staurt (Shane Edelman) seems to be channeling a weird combination of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. I'm not saying the guy's unfunny, but you can really sense the effort he's expending. Writer/director/actor Adam Baratta does a fine job with the "upbeat stud" routine, and the duo do manage to strike up a little comedic chemistry -- somewhere around Act III.
Despite an inordinately low budget, Baratta was able to enlist a few friendly faces for his directorial debut: The ever-lovely Kari Wuhrer makes a welcome appearance, as do folks like Paul Mazurksy, Danny Trejo, Colin Mochrie, and George "Spaceballs" Wyner as the uncle from the movie's title. The familiar faces add just a little more color to a grass-roots project that really does aim to please, but only does so in inconsistent fits and starts.
Video: It's a fairly muddy and un-lovely widescreen transfer.
Audio: A fluttery Dolby Digital 2.0 that's kind of interactive: When the characters lean back to whisper, we actually have to turn the volume up to hear what they're saying.
Extras: Baratta provides an amiable solo commentary that wavers between low-budget war stories and some narration of the onscreen action. Not the most scintillating track you'll ever hear, but at least the guy seems cool. Also included are a few deleted scenes and a photo gallery.
It looks pretty rotten and you've seen most of the comedy bits by now, but there's still a rusty little charm to this indie that prevented me from giving up.