Review: Limo Ride’s first half a cult classic, second half a mess

(An edited version of this review was originally published in the ABQ Free Press, and can be viewed here.) 

 

Limo Ride starts out incredibly promising, just like the excursion it depicts. It teases a fast-paced, stylistically creative, energetic romp that is also pretty hilarious.

From the very first moments, the film immerses the audience to about as much of an extent that a movie like this can, and probably should, given the crude material that awaits for around 80 minutes. Make sure you’re settled in, because the story is told in a way that makes you feel like the characters – themselves the narrators of the story – are right there with you.

And that’s something the audience had better be okay with, because they are about as forthright as could be. Get comfortable enough to know you’re going to feel uncomfortable with their antics.

The premise’s humble beginnings are simple enough – a group of longtime friends make their annual pilgrimage to a local polar plunge at the beach. Add a lot of booze and the crude humor associated with 30 and 40-something-year-olds acting like they’re still 23, and it’s easy to predict the kind of movie this could be.

Directors Gideon Kennedy and Marcus Rosentrater are aware of the audience’s intelligence level too, which is why they employ a unique style all their own that adds a whole new level of fun to the story in the early going.

The movie’s pacing mimics the breakneck, informal manner in which the story is being narrated by the same characters we’re seeing on-screen, and it works in conveying not only their nonchalant attitude about the events now that some time has passed, but also their varied personalities.

We all have stories we wish we could re-live and watch and comment on a la  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and to see that kind of storytelling played out for the audience is a gamble that works here.

It’s a free-spirited, and consistently laugh-inducing, first 45 minutes of a movie. Mercilessly so, almost to the point where it wouldn’t work at all if it conformed to Hollywood standards, like a superhero origin story we’ve seen a dozen times, or a successful comedian-turned-unfunny actor who gets the lead role in a Mel Brooks remake.

limo-ride

That’s what this film could have been – standard, and forgettable.

And unfortunately, at a certain point, that is exactly what happens, when the groups’ limo ride takes a turn for the worst and, even worse, the unfunny. Unfortunately, and ironically in line with the plot, it loses its way in the second half, along with its humor.

The film’s third act shows that it can’t balance the humor from early on with a style of comedy one or two shades darker and more dramatic.

Limo Ride stumbles and loses its way, devoid of the energy and life it does such a good job of dispelling early on. By comparison, the film’s latter half is equivalent to running a marathon and realizing you’d used everything you had a little over halfway instead of being economical.

The writing takes a step back, the direction two or three. The film slows to a slog, hitting a wall. Limo Ride becomes what we trusted so hard it wasn’t. The sum of its parts, particularly its early parts, are so much greater than the whole, even when the whole seems to be so confident in its potential to reach cult status, complete with a pseudo-realistic poster that features a game of “How many liquor bottles can you see?”

Essentially, for how memorable the first half is, the conclusion is little more than a whimper, barely even providing us of a resolution worthy of making the audience just a little grateful they tagged along.

 

 

In a Nutshell

In its attempt to fulfill its tagline of “The Greatest Bar Story Ever Told,” Limo Ride’s latter acts assures it ends up being generally as mundane as the titular party vehicle.

But if you’ve only got an hour to kill at the theater, you’d be hard pressed to find a better excuse to pay for half a film.

6.5 / 10

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