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Language of Kickball, The
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by Chris Parry

"Film 101: Don't talk about it. Show it."
2 stars

"The Language of Kickball" suffers from a series of problems that ensure it never gets further than the level of 'useful experience for rookie writer/director'. First and foremost, nothing happens. In fact, the first half hour of the film consists of nothing more than two characters talking in a Kevin Smith-esque series of "did you ever notice..." dialogues and pithy statements like, "the only reasons to go to college are to learn what your favorite mixed drink is and experiment with bisexuality." Certainly this isn't the first filmmaker to fall prey to the "I'm funny, so I can write a screenplay" trap, but few feature films have managed to be so action-free, while cramming in so many words from so few people.

The story opens with Fitz, our hero, losing his job at the local Burger Bazaar. A victim of low intelligence colleagues and minimum wage drudgery, Fitz bails on his crappy job and picks up another at the mall. To his dismay, the new job consists of being crawled over by toddlers while dressed as a giant bunny. No wonder he whines so much.

His best buddy is no help. While Fitz's life folds around him, his friend plays video games and waxes lyrical about poop. His girlfriend takes the opportunity to realize she'd prefer to be single. And on top of all that, the devil shows up at the bus stop and offers to buy Fitz's soul in return for the meaning of life.

Happens every day.

So what happens then? Well, there are some laughs, and some clever dialogue here and there, but that's about it. The film is short on inspiration, long on complaint. The performances aren't bad, but for the most part they're trying to deliver rapidfire dialogue that doesn't always roll off the tongue. The standard formula for each scene is something like this.

Guy 1: My life sucks. It really sucks.
Guy 2: Vaccum cleaners suck. Sometimes people put their dicks in them. What's up with that?
Guy 1: What do you mean?
Guy 2: Well, if you hang out at vacuum cleaner repair stores long enough, you'll find a starting incidence of penile insertion damage in vacuum cleaners in for repair. Forget the blow job. The hottest thing in suburbia right now appears to be the suck job. It's a scientific fact, I'm not making this stuff up...
Guy1 : I don't know why I even listen to you...


Now, this kind of dialogue is well and good if it's a part of something grander. If you're telling a story and take a little time-out to inject some comic relief, you won't get any complaints from me, but when every scene involves the same speech patterns, always between a total of two people, one of which is always the lead, and the background is filled with a continually overly-loud score, the movie will always struggle to find a rhythm.

There just isn't a moment of quiet in The Language of Kickball. There's nothing inferred, everything is instead discussed, or rather complained about, and in the end very little is actually resolved. While certainly the production looks better than it should, considering the undoubtedly low budget involved, you can't shake the feeling that you're watching something you kow will never get a release. Copyrighted logos abound (baseball teams, clothing brand names, etc.), some scenes seem to be missing the coverage that would allow them to be edited together properly, and just when you think proceedings are starting to get to a place you're comfortable with, they change tack and get back to the complaining.

There certainly is a salvagable film here, or at the very least a salvagable film career. Writer/director Barron obviously isn't a doofus - he has got some genuinely funny stuff within his script, but he needs to look harder at the visual side of things and give his funnier stuff the space to have full impact. Peppering one sarcastic line after another for 85 minutes ensures that none of them will have great effect, and any laughs are quickly stifled so as to not miss the next one.

All in all, The Language of Kickball is like a salad consisting of nothing but lettuce. Sure, there's plenty of fresh stuff and the first few bites are great, but after a while you need a little tomato, you know?

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originally posted: 08/21/03 20:11:30
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User Comments

5/09/06 rachel robinson not bad for a first film - with no budget 4 stars
2/26/04 J. C. Film lacks production quality, but does offer almost classic lines. 4 stars
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  02-Feb-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Michael Barron

Written by
  Michael Barron

  Michael Barron

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