By James Hancock May 31, 2015
I love nothing more than seeing an independent filmmaker aim for the stars with a low budget fantasy film, but unfortunately more than the lack of proper funding prevents ‘Patch Town’ from being a satisfying viewing experience. Based on his 2011 short of the same name, director Craig Goodwill uses this feature to expand on his initial premise, one where oppressed workers labor day and night in a sinister factory seemingly pulled straight out of Tim Burton’s imagination. The workers spend their time removing living dolls from cabbages to be sold as toys to little girls. Jon, played by Rob Ramsay, learns that he is actually one of these dolls now all grown up and that most of these discarded toys eventually return to the assembly line that gave birth to them to live out the rest of their days in dreary servitude. Jon decides that he and his wife must escape from their indentured servitude and flee out into the world in search of Jon’s ‘mother’. For the first few minutes of the film, the concept feels like a pretty solid premise on the whole that might have been pure magic in the hands of someone like Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton earlier in his career. Sadly, inexperienced actors and inconsistent storytelling by director Craig Goodwill leave this film feeling far longer than its meager 85 min as its deteriorates into a generic, by-the-numbers adventure movie for kids that would likely leave them rolling their eyes and wondering why their parents dragged them to see such a tedious movie.
I hate to come across as such a bitter old bastard but this movie tests the patience of even the most forgiving champion of DIY filmmaking. I’m a big believer in indie filmmaking and greatly admire the intestinal fortitude it takes to make a feature film, even a bad one. Any filmmaker attempting something outside the box should be applauded for their efforts, but in this case Craig Goodwill appears to lack the courage of his convictions. I have not seen his 2011 short film, but one gets the sense that he plunders every interesting idea and visual motif from his short in the first few minutes of the movie and then struggles to figure out where to go with the rest of his narrative. On the plus side, the opening has an interesting visual style, hysterical musical sequences and the shock value of seeing crying babies forcibly removed from cabbages. The rest of the film is all downhill from there. Most of the cast seems confused as to what the director wants, leaving the tone of the film inconsistent at best as some of the cast goes for heartfelt sincerity while others attempt tongue-in-cheek camp. The film features a variety of clumsy exposition sequences that feel utterly unnecessary in that the movie eventually settles in a predictable lovers on the lam scenario with Jon and his wife being pursued by evil goons as they try to reunite with Jon’s mother and take down the evil corporation they worked for. As the one-note actors go from one predicament to the next, the movie sheds any lingering edge it had from the opening of the movie and becomes basically a really bad ‘Spy Kids’ rip-off. All attempts at world building come to a screeching halt as the movie increasingly becomes preoccupied with the mundane. It is a shame really. If Craig Goodwill had managed to sustain the bizarre atmosphere from the opening of the film, the result might have been a really solid calling card for him moving forward as a filmmaker. As it stands, the movie is a well-intentioned but ultimately forgettable mediocrity.
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OPENS FRIDAY JUNE 5, 2015 in New York at Cinema Village with a national release to follow.
Also available day and date on iTunes and other digital platforms on June 5th.
Directed by Craig Goodwill
Starring: Zoie Palmer (Lost Girl, Sex After Kids), Rob Ramsay (Blue Mountain State) and Julian Richings (Cube, Wrong Turn)
WINNER! Best Feature and Best Cinematography at Canadian Film Festival