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Adrian International Film Festival Review: 'MOCK AND ROLL'


Somehow, I feel like at a certain point in our adolescence we've all dreamed or thought about starting a band. Even if the logistics never worked out, the idea of jamming with your buds inside a basement or garage always sounded like a good bet. That spirit has been perfectly captured in the new indie faux-style documentary "Mock and Roll," a small film currently making the run on the festival circuit.

An earnest coming of age tale, 'Roll' is about a squad of pals desperately trying to make their dream of shredding it on one of the worlds biggest stages - (in their case it's the South by Southwest festival) - a stunning reality, all the while they hope to punch their tickets into the history books as perhaps one of the most notorious bands on the planet.

It probably helps the squad has terrific chemistry and that you actually want to spend time with them. They first started out as a parody band to Cheap Trick ("Quick Sleep") with fun sendups of the bands iconic catalogue (a highlight is "Bartender" which borrows from "Surrender") - and now their in the business of "paying tribute" to a band called Black Owls and play under the ruse of "Liberty Mean."

Except, I wouldn't call these "rockers" mean at all because they have good hearts, they just sometimes use them for the wrong purpose. The film, directed by Ben Bacharach-White, chronicles this group of misfits who each possess varying characteristics. First we have, Rick (Chris Wolfe) a buff dude that's like a cross between a frat boy and a hulky Pete Wentz; Robin (Aditi Molly Bhanja) a semi-intelligent, voice of reason within the band; You got Tom (Pakon Jarenpone) who has aspirations of being a film critic because of all the "schlock" in cinemas (you're telling me!); and finally Bun (Andrew Yackel) a sweet-natured yuppie, who tends to say the first thing that pops into his head: Including a moment when he references "The Great Gatsby," while trying to raise money for the band, that made me laugh profusely.

But in order to rock the stage, they have to raise the funds to do it. So now Liberty Mean is a band for hire, taking on weird gigs to help propel their dream of playing at SXSW. Which includes a sketchy dive bar (that doesn't serve the band free booze) and local birthday parties that may or may not understand what the term "parody band" means. All of this unfolds documentary style with the voice of Sully (William Scarborough) behind the camera, asking routine questions with White doing a fine job keeping the story building around them.

"Mock and Roll" does run fairly smooth - (it clocks in around the 90-minute mark) - despite some friction late the in the second act. The film has a tendency to throw the band into obnoxious, albeit, poorly staged situations. One sequence has the band partaking in a trial run for an experimental drug, and the movie never justifies its existence other than to be a cliche acid trip. Another has the gang involved in an illegal art smuggling scheme that's fine but features an eccentric art dealer (played over the top by Brian Bowman) that slowly started to test my patience. This scene just felt like a strange departure from the lighthearted fun the movie embodies early on.

In other words, "Mock and Roll" works best when it focuses solely on the dynamics of the band's relationship to each other and the cast - while fairly unknown - delivers on that potential. In particular, pay special attention to Wolfe as Rick as he's got terrific screen presence; the kind of macho charisma that can make a bad movie watchable.

However, "Mock and Roll" isn't a bad movie, it's a good one, that takes you on a slightly bumpy journey, with a groovin’ soundtrack to get you through the slumps (Foghat, Black Owls, and Cheap Trick are all featured artists). So despite some miscalculations late in the third act, I think It's safe to hop on the 'Liberty Mean' bandwagon and 'surrender' to the will of this lively and welcoming ensemble.  

Grade: B

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