CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, Magnolia, Theatrical Reviews, DVD Reviews, Cinematical Indie, DVDs, Reviews, Cinematical
The problem with improv comedy is that the experts make it look real easy. You'll find yourself watching Waiting for Guffman, Reno 911 or Whose Line Is It Anyway? and somebody always says "Oh. I could do that!" (This person is generally among the least amusing people you know.) Another problem with improv comedy is that of inconsistency. For every piece of comedic gold that's mined by a good team of improv comics, there's probably hours of strained gags and failed whimsy that are unfit for human consumption. (I bet that most of Christopher Guest's outtakes aren't all that funny.)
Which brings us to a micro-budget improv comedy that's just now making a limited theatrical run before arriving (very quickly) on DVD. It's called Closing Escrow, the plot covers pretty much exactly what you'd expect, and it adheres firmly to the second problem I mentioned earlier: inconsistency. Closing Escrow runs about 90 minutes -- but if it'd been trimmed down to a lean 65 - 70 minutes, it'd be a whole lot funnier. (But then you'd have a lot of trouble selling it as a "real movie," I suppose.) Muddle through the lesser gags, though, and you'll find some really funny stuff here. And with the DVD arriving so quickly, the experience will only set you back a few bucks.
There's no real plot to speak of here. Closing Escrow is an improv-heavy mockumentary that focuses on three married couples as they try to buy a new house. Each couple has a predictably ... untraditional ... real estate agent to contend with -- and that's pretty much it! Just a dozen comics riffing with each other with the loose framework of "house buying" as the common theme. And while the flick definitely seems to run out of steam as the final third wears on, I found myself treated to several hearty laughs during the first hour or so. (The film's production company is called 'Awkward Silence' -- and this movie's got a few of 'em!)
Although I recognized only two of the cast members, the whole troupe seems pretty spot-on where the team-style improv work is concerned. Andrew Friedman wrings some strange humor from a plainly generic man; his maniacal wife (Patty Wortham) is really quite funny. April Barnett plays an uptight lawyer gal and earns her share of chuckles, as do Colleen Crabtree (as a bubbly suburbanite) and Bruce Thomas as a frustrated salesman. Fans of Reno 911 won't be surprised to hear that Cedric Yarbrough and Wendi McLendon-Covey steal three or four scenes of their own. Come to think of it, as a caustic and subtly racist real estate agent, Wendi M-C practically runs away with the whole movie. (How weird is it that this movie is about 40 times funnier than Reno 911: Miami?)
Tailor-made for small-screen viewing by people who have a real soft spot for tag-team improv material, Closing Escrow isn't nearly as polished or consistent as the best of its sub-genre -- but it's pretty dang funny for the most part. Funny how stuff like a flimsy plot and bare-bones production value can be forgiven when the performers just make with the laughs.