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Searching for Sonny


At least two-thirds of it is worth seeking out.

Rod Lott September 4th, 2012

Through nearly every frame of the indie crime comedy Searching for Sonny, it is obvious that writer/director Andrew Disney's debut would not exist if not for Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket. That 1996 cult classic bears a quirky, amiable stamp in the way it deals with three lovable losers, which Disney has done his best to duplicate, right down to its distinctive beats and rhythms.

searchingsonny

They were both shot in Texas and, hell, they even share a character name in "Future Man," but by no means am I suggesting Sonny should be held anywhere near the level of Bottle Rocket's giddy brilliance.

Jason Dohring (TV's Ringer) stars as Elliott Knight, who's accomplished a big bunch of nothing a decade after graduating high school, when he nearly killed his best friend, Sonny (Masi Oka, TV's Heroes), whom he hasn't seen since. When the 10-year reunion approaches, Elliott talks himself into attending in order to make amends.

Sonny is nowhere to be found — hence the title — but Elliott and a couple of others, including the ex-girlfriend for whom he still pines (Minka Kelly, TV's Friday Night Lights), receive a mysterious postcard presumably from the missing classmate, pointing them to a time capsule they buried a decade earlier. This leads to a fresh corpse, which leads to infiltrating the homecoming dance in order to access school files, which leads to a hostage situation with country clubbers.

It's all quite ambitious for a Kickstarter-funded project, and Disney's admirable sense of timing goes a long way in helping it look like several million dollars were poured into the thing. His script is loaded with several great lines, the majority delivered by web comedy troupe BriTANicK's Nick Kocher as Elliott's ne'er-do-well brother, such as when he comments on a friend's ultra-wispy mustache: "You need to stop looking like an Amber alert.”

The movie's downfall is that, like a preteen boy who's just hit puberty, it climaxes way too early. The story feels wrapped up about an hour in, but there's another 30 minutes or so to go, and the plot suffers for it. After that point, the story's desperation is tangible, the performances not as lively, and — perhaps most damning — the laughs largely absent. As if to compensate, Dohring, Kocher and company try too hard in wanting to get audiences to really, really like them. (This extends to the self-congratulatory extras, which exhibit an off-putting Entitled Hipster quality; I suggest you skip them and just stick to the movie.)

Still, Sonny could generate enough good word of mouth to become a DVD sleeper. Even if it doesn't, Disney has a hell of a polished calling card to make the next big leap into a directorial career. Worth noting to my fellow Oklahomans is that the film has a great soundtrack that includes two of our best indie-rock bands, Colourmusic and Starlight Mints. —Rod Lott

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