Raindance Film Festival: Lucky Stiff

Directed by Christopher Ashley
Starring Dominic Marsh, Nikki James, Jason Alexander, Pamela Shaw and Dennis Farina

by Joanna Orland

Based on the off-Broadway musical of the same name, Lucky Stiff brings musical farce to the big screen with a talented cast and a kitsch style.  It will be hard for the film to avoid being referred to as Weekend at Bernie’s The Musical, but is that necessarily a bad thing?  Lucky Stiff stars Dominic Marsh as Harry Witherspoon, the lowly shoe salesman who finds out he’s inherited $6million from his deceased American uncle whom he’s never met.  But the inheritance is dependent on one condition – Harry must take Uncle Tony’s corpse on one last trip of a lifetime, to Monte Carlo.

It is on this trip to Monte Carlo where the audience is treated to an array of colourful characters, each with their own motive, mostly all in it for the money.  The laughs are farcical, the singing performances pitch-perfect and the 1950’s style animation incorporation a very nice touch.  Sadly, it is the songs themselves that leave something to be desired.  Some are singalong worthy in the moment, but they aren’t catchy or pleasant enough to warrant a repeat listen.  While an enjoyable experience on the big screen, this is certainly not a soundtrack I’ll be adding to my playlist.

Dominic Marsh is an endearing lead as Harry Witherspoon, and it’s no wonder that Annabel Glick (Nikki James) falls for his charms.  His characterization is reminiscent of Martin Freeman’s early works, showing promise of a great career ahead of him.  Jason Alexander also gives a standout performance as optometrist Vinnie Di Ruzzio, perhaps trying to inject a bit of what Steve Martin added to another off-Broadway musical film adaptation.  Not quite achieving the same legendary status with this film as Steve did with Little Shop of Horrors, this is no fault of Jason’s as his role is slightly underdeveloped.  The actor makes the most of what he is given, with a performance much greater than the role itself.

The rest of the cast also give it their all.  Pamela Shaw is hilarious and pure diva as Rita LaPorta and the late Dennis Farina gives his final performance as Luigi in a glorious sendoff, with the film’s end credits expressing love for the great actor and his memory.

Overall this is a fun film.  It’s not destined for mainstream success, but perhaps it will find its cult following as it did off-Broadway rather than on.

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