CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, Casting, Deals, New Releases, Cannes, Slamdance, Sony, Distribution, DIY/Filmmaking, Home Entertainment, Movie Marketing, Features, Movie News, New Releases, CinematicalWith five nominations, it looks like Superbad will be the star of the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, and its three jubilant male leads -- Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse -- deserve the kudos. But one major talent behind the whole affair has stayed relatively anonymous while these young up-and-comers bathe in the spotlight: Director Greg Mottola. The erstwhile independent filmmaker, responsible for some of the best installments of Arrested Developed and Undeclared, launched his career a solid decade before the rise of Judd Apatow with a charming little low budget comedy called The Daytrippers. Starring Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Liev Schreiber, Parker Posey and a host of other fantastic character actors, the film follows a wildly dysfunctional family over the course of a single day, as Davis, playing a worrisome housewife, tries to track down her unfaithful husband (Tucci).
Mixing warm humanity with pitch-perfect screwball timing, Daytrippers marked the sort of debut that told you a filmmaker had a big career ahead of him. After a modest premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, it landed at Cannes, barely got a theatrical release and promptly vanished thereafter. Mottola turned to TV work, and slipped out of the film scene for a good ten years. These days, it's no easy task to track down Daytrippers on DVD -- you can nab second-hand copies on Amazon for decent rates, but not a single retail outlet carries it. Aside from the occasionally airings on cable, the movie has vanished.
When I asked Mottola about this during a recent appearance he made at the Apple store in Soho, the director said that legal issues have kept the DVD out of circulation. However, Sony -- the folks behind Superbad -- now own the rights to Daytrippers, and suggested to him that they might give the film a proper home video release sometime in the future. That would help audiences get a better sense for the scope of Mottola's developing career, but it's not like he needs the extra boost: His third feature, the jolly coming-of-age comedy Adventureland, hits theaters in August. Mottolla showed an extended trailer at the Apple store, and it looks promising: The zany story of an aimless teenager (Jesse Eisenberg) wasting his time as the employee of an amusement park, it comes across as a cozy marriage of romantic awkwardness (Eisenberg splashing around in a swimming pool, desperately trying to flirt with an acquaintance) and unruly humor (Bill Hader, as Eisenberg's boss, hurling a bat at disgruntled customers). "It's a look at middle class life in all its dullness," Mottola said. Sounds like he's found his niche.