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Overall Rating

Awesome: 38.46%
Worth A Look: 11.54%
Average: 3.85%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap46.15%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Surviving Eden
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by Lybarger

"You’ll be happy to be kicked out of this garden."
1 stars

Because of their frequently tawdry and inconsequential content, reality shows like “Survivor” are ripe for satire. Unfortunately, writer-director Greg Pritkin (“Dummy”) offers up a parody that’s less enjoyable than the stuff he’s mocking.

In “Surviving Eden,” Pritkin chronicles the rise and fall of an overweight convenience store employee named Dennis Flotchky (Michael Panes), who becomes famous overnight by winning a reality show titled “Surviving Eden.”

Although he loses an enormous amount of weight during the contest and receives more cash and hollow praise than most people know how to handle, he becomes more miserable than before.

A losing contestant named Maria (“Saturday Night Live” alumna Cheri Oteri) claims to be carrying his love child and starts commandeering his life and career, and he finds himself hopelessly in love with the heavy metal-listening nun (Savannah Haske) who was the runner up on “Surviving Eden.”

While “Survivor” can be criticized for being mean-spirited and even encouraging its viewers to be as duplicitous as its contestants, “Surviving Eden” can’t claim moral superiority over the subject it’s ridiculing.

Yes, Hollywood can be mean soul-sucking place; now find something more interesting and original to say. There’s really nothing here that Robert Altman didn’t do far better in “The Player. Oh, hell, even “Bowfinger” was more witty and observant.

Presented as a mockumentary, the characters in “Surviving Eden” always praise Dennis as if he’s some type of genius, even though viewers quickly realize he’s a helpless nebbish who’s overwhelmed by what happens to him.

Never once do viewers feel anything like empathy for him or even remotely care if he makes it through the Hollywood meat grinder. Panes looks a lot like Peter Sellers, but like the great comic, can only do so much with faulty material.

Pritkin seems so enamored of Christopher Guest’s films like “A Mighty Wind” that one wonders if he longs to possess one of the actor-director’s stool samples.

As with Guest’s movies, every single character involved is loaded with quirks. Dennis has a pet pig, and his best friend is a little person with a crass manner (Peter Dinklage, in the film’s only compelling or even interesting performance).

While Pritkin features Guest veteran Jane Lynch as an amoral coke-snorting producer, he misses an important element that makes Guest’s movies work.

Guest can poke fun at his characters’ silliness all he wants because viewers get a sense that he feels a deep affection for them. As a result, “Waiting for Guffman” viewers actually wait with baited breath to see if Corky St. Clair actually mounts a successful musical.

No suck luck here. All the characters in “Surviving Eden” are good for is ridicule. The smugness gets old after the first few frames.

Pritkin has found some interesting performers like Conchatta Ferrell and moonlighting director John Landis (hey, he had free time on his hands). It’s too bad Pritkin can’t find anything interesting from them to do.

What’s really odd, is despite the disdain for the characters that permeates “Surviving Eden,” the satire is surprisingly toothless. The duplicity and intrigue both on the island and in Hollywood isn’t nearly as interesting as an actual episode of “Survivor” or “The Apprentice” or even an “E!” overview of Tinseltown foibles.

Real celebrity malfeasance, like Mel Gibson’s recent DUI-racist diatribe debacle for example, is both more amusing and shocking than anything in this film.

Unfortunately, viewers in theaters watching “Surviving Eden” instead of “Survivor” won’t be able to reach for their remotes when it starts to get dull.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/25/06 14:45:27
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/27/06 Jim Pelkin Clever and humorous. 4 stars
8/18/06 L. Talbot The funniest movie since Spinal Tap. Love it! 5 stars
8/17/06 kimberly buzzelli Super comedy-lots of laughs 5 stars
8/10/06 Tiffany Naiman Great, Super Funny 5 stars
6/14/06 leon cane peter dinklage - way cool - love cheri oteri enlisting raffi/hotel clerk to get coffee! 5 stars
6/14/06 S. Rose Very,very funny movie--great timely story line 5 stars
5/25/04 George saw the film in austin and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. 4 stars
3/23/04 AL Levy Excellent, hysterical 5 stars
3/19/04 G. Souza Lots of laughs 5 stars
3/19/04 Nola Rocco Very Funny 5 stars
3/18/04 leon caplin hilarious with heart- a real gem 5 stars
3/18/04 damen wickedly funny take on reality programs; Cheri Oteri is awesome! 5 stars
3/15/04 Boombah Baby A funny film that makes a good point, though it makes it a little too long. 3 stars
3/15/04 Katherine Ralli Romberg Ideal mix of actors/ good balance/ away with those reality shows. 4 stars
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  25-Aug-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Jun-2008



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