Game ensemble comedy undone by its clichéd script


on November 02, 2007 by Jay Antani

Writer/director Kurt Voelker's Park is an ensemble comedy variously about egos healed and chastened, relationships forged and broken. The film takes place in one setting, a Los Angeles park, where several couples and groups have convened on one afternoon. The performances are game across the board, and cinematographer Christophe Lanzenberg has a crisp, sun-tinged visual style. If only those qualities were not in the service of Voelker's stale themes and clichéd storytelling, Park may have distinguished itself as a character piece of note.

A depressed musician/basket case (Dagney Kerr) and an equally depressed dog groomer/milquetoast (David Fenner) strike up a weird camaraderie, as both commiserate over their lonely lives and try jointly to commit suicide. Meanwhile, an insufferably conceited and hard-up husband (William Baldwin) and his mistress (Izabella Miko) meet for a tryst in his SUV just as the spurned wife (Ricki Lake), with help from her lovelorn best friend (Sheri Oteri), decides it's payback time.

As their shenanigans, riddled with accusations and sledgehammers, play out, we turn to a foursome sequestered nearby—two men and two women—on their lunch hour in the company van. The men (Trent Ford and Maulik Pancholy) try to edify the uptight women (Anne Dudek and Melanie Lynskey) on the joys of personal liberation and nonconformity over much clothes-shedding and hits of pot. Their interplay erupts into a clothing-deprived game of one-upmanship as they call each other to task, either about themselves or their true feelings for each other.

If Park aspired to any real insights or to any ambition beyond the routine, its hysterics would be worth sitting through. Only Lake's character undergoes a substantial enough journey of self-realization, but it plays like an after-school special and feels too pat to warrant much attention. By and large, Park 's story beats are familiar, tiresome even, as Voelker's script follows a paint-by-numbers course—characters in turn are humbled by their circumstances and set right again. Like the thematically contrived Crash, Park 's message about being true to yourself and nice to each other is well taken, but that doesn't forgive the well-trodden trails the film follows to get us there.

Distributor: Mello
Cast: William Baldwin, Ricki Lake, Cheri Oteri, Melanie Lynskey, Izabella Miko, Anne Dudek, Trent Ford, Maulik Pancholy, David Fenner, Dagney Kerr, Anthony "Treach" Criss and Francesco Quinn
Director/Screenwriter: Kurt Voelker
Producer: Dana Jackson
Genre: Comedy
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 86 min.
Release date: November 2, 2007 LA, November 16 NY

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