Workplace Comedies. Over the past 15 years, this sub genre has found a return to popularity. With sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation as well as cult movies like Office Space, the idea of telling an exciting story that pokes at the boredom of a nine-to-five job has been almost exhausted. But sadly, with only a few exceptions like Brooklyn Nine-Nine (the new cop sitcom starring Andy Sandberg and Andre Braugher), most of these stories are about the horrors of a job take place in an office setting. That’s why it’s interesting when somebody thinks outside the box and gives us a fresh take on the workplace comedy. Hell, it’s great when somebody takes it a step further and delivers a workplace comedy for a job that doesn’t even exist (at least to the best of our knowledge). This is what drew my attention to Rock Jocks. Directed by Paul Seetachitt, the film is about a group of workers on the night shift. It just so happens that this night shift is at a top secret installation that destroys asteroids before their impact becomes a threat to our planet. The film made it’s debut at the 2012 Dragon*Con and was quietly released on DVD earlier this year. It boastsan impressive cast for a small film and obviously has a nerdy flare, so I made a point to check it out. With all that promise, it had a chance to either greatly impress or highly disappoint. Amazingly, it succeeded at doing neither.
Housed in a non-descript warehouse, The Asteroid Management Initiative is an important part of the Department of Defense’s struggle to keep the world safe from asteroids that enter Earth’s orbit. The facility is manned by a small, overworked and underpaid crew who remotely operate the satellites (outfitted with lazer cannons) that are used to break up these space rocks before then reach the planet’s atmosphere. This isn’t as exciting a job as it sounds. Most of the night, the AMI’s employees find themselves fighting off boredom waiting for something to happen. For John, the supervisor scheduled for the evening, it’s the worst night of his life. He’s not even suppose to be here tonight! He was going to take his son camping to do some star gazing. But instead, he’s gotta come into work and cover a shift with a crew that drives him nuts. All the while, he and his team are getting reviewed by someone from the DOD who thinks that their processes and manpower are obsolete. Can John make it through the night without killing somebody and will he find a way to fullfill his promise to his kid? And who the heck is Smoking Jesus and what’s he got to do with the fate of humanity?
While not the most impressive film for production values, Rock Jocks plays to it’s strengths leaning on colourful characters and a simple but progressive story to keep you engaged. The film puts comedy first as that is obviously the overall goal of the story. This is not a heartwarming tale to share with the whole family. The idea is to get some quick laughs both from “dick and fart joke” humour as well as some carefully placed references to geek pop culture. The AMI team has multiple threats they have to deal with: severe lack of moral and team work that is giving way to arguments and incidents between their technicians, the looming decision from the DOD that may shut them down, and the usual threat of giant asteroids hitting the earth. The workers are stressed and Paul Seetachitt does a good job of racheting up the tension while giving breif moments of relief with a joke at the right time. Many of the performances in this film also do a good job to either alleviate the tension with some comedy relief or to give us the proper amount of exposition without making it feel like it’s just a dude talking. Jason Mewes and Robert Picardo play a pair of security guards at the facility who have nothing to do with the story except to give something funny moments to cut away to. Their discussions are odd but hilarious, especially when taking a “What kind of princess are you?” quiz. Doug Jones, who is surprise, surprise, acting under a bunch prostetics, does a great job of being the “Yoda” of the story while keeping things casual. He plays the infamous smoking Jesus. I can’t say much more about him accept that his moments with Andrew Bowen (who plays John) make you actually identify with and care more about the film’s protagonist. Gerry Bednob, who most folks still remember as Mooj from The 40 Year Old Virgin, plays Tom, an apathetic alcoholic who’s main job is to keep the targeting system online. Gerry makes Tom the most relatable character in the film as most of us have had to work a shit job at some point in our lives with an old dude who’s just waiting out until retirement and doesn’t give a fuck about anything. The problem is that while all these performances are dead-on funny, they are only there to back up the main cast, who sorely lack the right motivation.
The main characters of the piece are John, Allison and Seth played by Andrew Bowen, Felicia Day and Justin Chon respectively. Each, while not terrible, doesn’t seem to be too into this film. For the most part, all three are unlikable. This is surprising as each of the actors have the ability to be quite the oposite. The problem lies in playing the story a bit too straight laced. When doing comedy, it’s important to play it straight. But with this film, it feels like they are all acting in a drama when this is obviously just a vehicle for laughs and nothing more. It would’ve been nice to see these guys look like they’re actually having fun. I know they’re suppose to be stressed out by their jobs but you can do this and still have fun. Clerks proved this decades ago. Space Milkshake, which came out earlier this year and mines similar content, also pulled this off. I feel that if a little more fun was breathed into the three main performances, this could’ve been an indie hit instead of the blip on the radar (pun intended) that it ended up being. But like I said, they weren’t terrible. They just needed a few more nudges in the right direction. In fact, the whole film did.
If you’re a gamer or a fan of the actors’ other projects, you might want to add this to your DVD collection. Anybody else who’s interested in checking it out would be best advised to rent it where you can find it. While not a bad film that did sport some funny moments, Rock Jocks would’ve better been suited to be a web series instead of a full feature film. Overall, an okay distraction that will leave you as quickly as bits of meteor breaking up as they reach our atmosphere.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
Past Rentals Under the Radar: