Tuesday, July 19, 2011
On DVD: "Zonad"
The title character, a chunky freeloader in a red leather suit (he bops through the picture like a plump cherry), is discovered passed out in the living room of the Cassidys, a pleasant nuclear family living in the Irish hamlet of Ballymoran. When he awakens, he explains to them that he is from outer space and has come to their village to observe earth life. That’s all rubbish; he’s actually an escapee from a mental institution (he’s in for alcohol rehabilitation). But he quickly becomes a local celebrity, treated to free drinks and perks and the affections of the local girls.
Zonad is played by Simon Delaney, who brings exactly the right kind of sprung comic energy to the picture; he’s particularly adept at showing his less-than-brilliant character thinking out loud, adjusting his answers impatiently, recalibrating his priorities while leering at the Cassidys’ daughter, Jenny (Janice Byrne). Jenny is an exquisite comic creation; a busty blonde packed into a schoolgirl uniform at least two sizes too small, she begins the film by cheerfully explaining to her dense, androgynous boyfriend Guy (Rory Keenan) that she’s ready for sex, laying it out in a serious of crystal-clear metaphors about flowers being ready to bloom, filled with seeds, etc. (We get an immediate sense of the film’s sense of humor when, at the end of her speech, the camera pulls back to reveal she’s been walking hand-in-hand with her family members during the entire speech—great reveal.) When Guy doesn’t take the broad hints, Jenny’s frustrated; she looks like a champagne bottle about to pop. Zonad picks up on this, of course, leading to the almost-obligatory line “What is this… kissing?”
The film is written and directed by brothers John and Kieran Carney; John is best known for writing and directing Once, a film that couldn’t be further from this one. He’s certainly a versatile filmmaker. The brothers adopt the grubby visual sense of early Brooks or ZAZ’s Kentucky Fried Movie; it’s not a great-looking movie, but then again, when has stylish filmmaking ever helped a knockabout low comedy? (In one scene of obscenely bad rear-projection, the brothers seem to be consciously quoting Airplane!) They also give Zonad a goofy musical number, a rival spaceman, and a wonderfully on-target broadside of movie training sequences. It’s all so good-natured and cheery, even the gross-out jokes don’t spoil the party.
Zonad is not a moment too long at 75 minutes, and even at that abbreviated length, it’s running on fumes a bit by the end. This is a typical problem of the parody movie; it’s all gags with no interest in plot, so by the time it gets to the point where there should be a climax and resolution, it looks pretty silly trying to create one. The Carneys manufacture a boxing match between Zonad and his rival Bonad, but can’t find any jokes for the sequence that are up to the laugh-out-loud standards of what came before; they end up relying on the music cues (like “Intermezzo” from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, which was the opening credit music in Raging Bull, or “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” from Kill Bill) for laughs. But by that point, its flaws aren’t all that troublesome anyway.
I saw Zonad at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, was thoroughly charmed by it, and expected to check it out again during an American theatrical run that would seem assured, so sorry is the current state of domestic film comedy. But it never found an American distributor, so here it is on DVD. Hopefully it will find the audience it deserves--Zonad is a delightfully silly movie, sweetly ribald, proudly lowbrow, and funny as hell.
"Zondad" makes its DVD debut today. For full A/V and bonus feature details, read this review on DVD Talk.