Sunday, February 21, 2010

Released this week on DVD: "Splinterheads"

Grade: C

A cool hobby and a hot blonde guide an aimless man to his bliss in Splinterheads, a shaggy comedy with more heart than heft.

It's summer in a nameless, featureless small town and Justin (Thomas Middleditch) is bored. Unenthusiastic about the lawn care business he shares with his best friend, Wayne (Jason Rogel), he's more titillated than angry when the exotically named and tattooed Galaxy (Rachael Taylor) rips him off at the gas station. Galaxy's grifter credentials are authenticated when Justin learns she's a splinterhead: a carnival-based con artist who works marks on the midway. She is also an aficionado of geocaching, a satellite-guided treasure hunt and a too-obvious metaphor for Justin's halfhearted search for a life.

Written and directed by Brant Sersen, who conjures his offbeat milieu without breaking a sweat, Splinterheads gains traction from an eclectic cast that knows how to work a line. Lea Thompson (little altered since her 1983 turn as Tom Cruise's high school honey in All the Right Moves) settles comfortably into her role as Justin's overprotective mom, while the estimable Christopher McDonald plays her simmering ex-boyfriend with practiced restraint. And thanks to Michael Simmonds's clean, color-rich photography, the film has a visual polish rarely seen in low-budget projects: the gags may not always work, but the skin tones are perfect.

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