Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Movie with Abe: Opening Night

Opening Night
Directed by Isaac Rentz
Released August 1, 2017 (DVD)

Things rarely go as planned, especially in the world of live theater. The same act can be rehearsed over and over again, but until you’re in the moment, it’s impossible to know what minute aspect of a person’s temperament or the surrounding environment will prove unpredictable and derail an opening number or dramatic scene meant to have a very different impact than the one it ends up having. The first time a practiced production goes public, it’s even more likely that things will go awry, and only time can tell how it will all play out and whether, in the end, it all works out.

“Opening Night” follows production manager Nick (Topher Grace) as he prepares to launch a nostalgia-filled musical epic starring J.C. Chasez, the onetime ‘N Sync star, who plays himself. He’s distracted by the fact that he’s still in love with his ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Alona Tal), who just happens to be the understudy for Chasez’s has-been costar Brooke (Anne Heche), who doesn’t seem to be in the right emotional shape to headline a big production. Throw in dueling divas (Taye Diggs and Lesli Margherita), a fire-breathing executive (Rob Riggle), and plenty of unpredictable drama, and that leaves Nick scrambling to try to make sure that, against all odds, opening night doesn’t turn into a complete failure.

The DVD cover presents its characters looking quizzically at the camera, with Riggle seemingly screaming, above the tagline, “The show goes the f#&k on.” That’s hardly the most encouraging recommendation, but fear not – this film is far better than that would indicate. While it’s hardly masterpiece theater, this is an enjoyable, relatively engaging look at a bunch of characters who might be thinly overdrawn but still serve their purpose as elements of entertainment in this wild ride that isn’t quite as wild as its cover suggests.

Grace is the right person for this lead role, not the one to make jokes but instead to observe all the ridiculousness that occurs around him. Smartly, those who have altogether too much energy to play nice with the rest of the cast, namely Riggle and Paul Scheer, are relegated to minor roles while Heche and Tal, both endearing talents, get more screentime. Diggs is having fun with his part opposite Margherita, and Chasez, to his credit, does a good job of parodying himself. This is not a must-rent musical comedy, but it’s more fun than I think anyone going into it would expect.


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