Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire

on September 16, 1999 by Michael Tunison
   "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire's" mouthful of a title refers to the childhood nicknames given to the sibling protagonists by their Italian/Native American grandmother, suggesting at least one person thought they were lively, colorful characters as kids. They must have peaked early. When we catch up with Chris and Tony Remi in their 20s, their very ordinary female troubles and brother-to-brother banter are only sporadically funny or dramatically engaging enough to justify the time the filmmakers expect us to spend with them.

   A well-meaning addition to the guys-yakking-about-women genre, reportedly shot on a minuscule $40,000 budget, director Kevin Jordan's unpolished feature debut follows the Remi boys' intersecting tribulations as they search for love and/or worthwhile sex on the unglamorous margins of Hollywood. Buttoned-down accountant Chris and carefree aspiring actor Tony (real-life brothers Derick and Steven Martini, respectively) extricate themselves from dead-end relationships and pursue new loves--a fiery Italian animal wrangler (Rosemarie Addeo) for Chris and a grounded single-mom postal carrier (Christa Miller) for Tony. All too soon the thrust of the schematic storyline is clear: Conservative Chris' life gets shaken up while wild-man Tony's settles down.

   An offbeat showcase piece written and produced by Jordan and the Martinis, the film rarely generates the sparks needed to set it apart from countless other "hire me" indies. Ironically, the most compelling moments involve supporting players--the instantly sympathetic Miller ("The Drew Carey Show") as a woman whose outward strength conceals crippling self-doubts about her worthiness to attract a partner, and veteran character actor Bill Henderson as an elderly black sound man who spins stories about his days working on African American-run movies in the '30s and '40s. The next time the Martinis write a script, they might want to include such memorable roles for themselves. Starring Derick Martini, Steven Martini, Christa Miller and Bill Henderson. Directed by Kevin Jordan. Written and produced by Kevin Jordan, Derick Martini and Steven Martini. A Stratosphere release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 92 min

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