There's no law that says you can’t make a mockumentary unless your name is Christopher Guest. But then Guest is a comedic genius, who with the snap of his fingers can command a troupe of North America’s finest improvisational actors. Even then, films like Waiting for Guffman and Best of Show earn more affection than they do money. So the reasons to not go there are many.
Yet here comes “Never Been Thawed” a mockumentary from a graphic designer in Phoenix, Arizona named Sean Anders, who recruited local friends as actors and crew and with a $20,000 made a feature film that pokes fun at people who collect frozen food. A subculture they invented in order to make fun of.
Out of basic human decency I went in willing to cut the film a couple miles of slack. But pretty soon it became apparent that Never Been Thawed didn’t need my pity. It was perfectly capable of hanging with the big boys, working as both an homage to mockumentaries that went before it and as original, inspired and surprisingly confident material. That I can write this review without using the words “well-intentioned” is glowing testimony to what Anders and friends have accomplished.
For some reason the genre, as crafted by Guest and Ricky Gervais of The Office, typically hinges on the doomed aspirations of pathetic people, the laughs coming when they humiliate themselves at the worst possible time. This always sounds more cruel and condescending than it actually is, and Never Been Thawed takes up the cause by toying with the affections of the misfits who find community in collectibles clubs. Anders plays Shawn, the founder of the Mesa Frozen Entrée Enthusiasts Club and the leader of a failed punk band that is making a calculated switch to Christian rock. He is otherwise unemployed and living in a small apartment overrun by the freezers required to maintain his hobby. But his self-confidence in the face of insignifagance makes him a hero to the other quirky losers: the shy Christian virgin working the Intercourse Prevention Hotline, the bass player still living with his parents while working as a sad-eyed clown, the fireman who is going through de-homosexualization. But the more Shawn reveals himself as an insecure fraud, the more the others stand up to face their own realities. Or at least pretend to.
Never Been Thawed is rarely less than smart and often pretty damn sharp. The acting is better than it has any right to be, and the original music written for the Christian Punk band is straight-up good even without the satire. Anders has milked a remarkable amount of filmmaking out of his $20,000. The extremely independent production has been fighting for theatrical distribution, and whatta ya know, they actually earned it.
© 2006 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 11/2/05
Never Been Thawed
U.S. - 2005