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Flying Scissors, The
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by Charles Tatum

"One of your funnier non-sports sports movies"
4 stars

This film has it all: professional athletes meeting in an all-or-nothing tournament. A doping scandal. Alcoholism. Sex. Harried league officials. Regular men and women who find themselves elevated to the level of gods. And the bathroom attendant who worships John Cusack.

League commissioner Alan (Matthew Arkin) and his marketing director/nephew David (Benim Foster) are getting ready for the championships for their National Rock Paper Scissors League. Thirty-two regional finalists are descending on Madison Square Garden, and the league is finally going to hit it big. Let's meet some of the competitors: Phil (Mason Pettit) is an unemployed stay-at-home dad. Trash talking Leon (Mike Britt) brings the sport street cred after toiling in underground RPS matches. Divorced Frank (Todd Susman) is arthritic, competing in what might be his last tournament. Bruce (Keong Sim) is the bathroom attendant, he uses mathematical calculations to determine what move his opponents will throw. Young slacker Matty (Jeremy Redleaf) is a bit of an alcoholic, as is his coach Mac (Madison Arnold). Leslie (Susan O'Connor) is an angry feminist artist and the only woman in the competition other than bigoted Christian/wannabe actress Anna (Sarah Wheeler). Anna is being used by her agent Barry (Alex Cranmer). The Rock (Devin Ratray) is a large speechless man, possibly mentally challenged, nicknamed for his signature move.

Competition between sports leagues is cutthroat, and the NRPSL is screwed out of Madison Square Garden by those bastards over at The Coin Toss Consortium, and must retreat to the Hotel Roberto Clemente in White Plains (Alan may have forgot to send in the deposit). We watch Alan and David come up with unique marketing strategies, like using the homeless to advertise their match, and get to know the competitors at home and in training before the championship begins and dreams are realized- and crushed.

Writer/director Jonah Tulis and co-writer Blake J. Harris go the well worn mockumentary path, but do it so well and so boldly, the genre becomes fresh again in their hands. The thought of a Rock-Paper-Scissors championship is ridiculous (but true, I saw one profiled on CBS' "Sunday Morning" once), but the actors play every scene straight.

The cast is huge, and not one of them falters. I left out some supporting members like the university professor who is an expert at conflict, and the RPS referee, but everyone here is excellent. Special mention must be made about Pettit and Britt. Mike Britt's opening scene in the museum, yelling at a little girl who tries to touch some artwork, is filthy-mouthed and funny. Pettit can be considered the hero of the film, and is so real I had to remind myself once in a while that this was all made up. Tulis does not use any off-camera interviewer, and thankfully keeps his camera steady instead of caving in to the faux-shaky look. The final match contains actual suspense, and when I wasn't laughing, I had a goofy grin on my face all the way through.

"The Flying Scissors" is a real find for mockumentary fans. It's not perfect, some of the peripheral characters could have been dropped, a couple of storylines get repetitive, and Phil's wife's change of behavior is completely out of left field, but this one is still a winner. Watch your back, Christopher Guest.

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originally posted: 03/03/10 09:51:51
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  06-Nov-2009 (NR)
  DVD: 25-May-2010



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