The History of Future Folk (2013)
9/10 Space Jams
See this immediately, you can thank me later.
The History of Future Folk is about a mighty general from the planet Hondo who crash lands on Earth with the intent of wiping us all out. Just as he’s about to set his deadly plan into motion, his ears are graced with Earth music, and like that, he discovers a planet worth saving. Shortly thereafter, he learns the banjo and starts playing gigs while trying to reconnect with his people back home. Along the way, he falls in love, gets married and has a kid. While the attendance numbers at his shows aren’t great, he integrates quite well into life here on Earth. Then one day, he meets another Hondonian who’s been sent to assassinate him for his traitorous ways. But being the badass of legend that he is, he foils the assassin’s plan and introduces him to Earth music. Next thing he knows, his one-man show is now a bonafide duo and they’re the hottest ticket in Bushwick. But when an outside hire shows up to finish the job our spaceman never started, it’s up to the Future Folk to save all of mankind.
That’s the name of their band, Future Folk. Now it all make sense.
Anyway, hell of a premise, huh? As promised in the trailer, it’s far and away the best alien folk duo sci-fi action romance comedy you’ll ever see and I’d be damned if it ever gets stripped of that fabulous honor. The tragedy of the situation is that I didn’t know it existed until I stumbled upon it by chance, the double tragedy is that I’m certainly not alone. What with all these summer blockbusters getting crammed down our throats, it can be hard for the little guys to get their time in the sun. Yeah, sometimes the Davids get overshadowed for a reason, but sometimes the Goliaths need to take a stop down. And as much as I’ve enjoyed some of these blockbusters as of late, that’s also unfortunately the thing about this season: it can be easy to lose sight of what matters in a movie.
As you’ve likely gathered, this is not a summer blockbuster. You haven’t heard of it, the special effects are ass, the budget’s non-existent and it stars a bunch of no-names (save Dee Snider, who is indeed still alive and is actually still awesome). Safe to say there’s no mystery why this won’t be competing with Pacific Rim next month. It’s sad, but it’s no mystery. From the outset, it seems that all this movie has going for it is originality, charm and some mean, mean banjo riffs. And while I can’t speak for the rest of ya’s, that was all the convincing I need.
Not only am I hook, line and sinker for anything involving a banjo, but I am all about movies that 1) know their limitations, and 2) get a whole lot out of a little. Just look at that synopsis, man. The intergalactic adventures of a high-ranking space soldier is a pretty ambitious road to set out on no matter what kind of funding you’re working with. In someone else’s hands, this could have taken itself pretty seriously and ended up on a double bill with the timeless classic that is Arachnoquake. Instead, it goes for a more “Flight of the Conchords-meets-Star Trek” approach, Syfy channel be damned. Nothing against all you in the Arachnoquake booster club, but Flight of the Trek was the right way to go.
Still, I can’t help but wonder how this movie came about. Either the Future Folk were already a real-life comedy folk act that writer/director John Mitchell made a movie around or the dude wrote a great script and hit the jackpot with the casting. Whatever the reason, the planets aligned.
The thing is, even if the two leads had been horribly miscast, if it had been Bjork and Garey Busey under those helmets, they’d have a damn hard time disservicing such a continually endearing and funny script as this. As soon that general starts movin’ and groovin’ to the muzak in Home Depot, I was utterly won over. From there, it’s just one more great line and one more great moment after another that had me laughing out loud. It is all smiles all the time with this one. Good lord, I’ve been smiling like a village idiot the whole time I’ve been writing this. But lucky for all of us, Bjork and Busey had prior obligations, leaving Nils d’Aulaire and Jay Klaitz to take their place.
D’Aulaire plays the super soldier, Klaitz plays the crappy assassin. Much like this movie’s existence, I have no idea where they came from, but sweet sassy molassy, are they perfect for each other. They both do such a great job of playing the straight man in different ways, neither one outshines the other and they each dive face-first into the roles they’re given. Sure, the bumbling idiot/trained professional thing isn’t breaking the mold when it comes to odd couples in comedies, but they’re far from caricatures and they’re so easy to root for within mere minutes of meeting them. Even though a smile is hard to come by with these two, it’s hard not to get caught up in what a blast they’re obviously having. It’s downright contagious, I tell ya’.
Did I mention how good their songs are? Good gravy, are these songs good and catchy as can be. Think you won’t be singing about space worms for the rest of the month? Think again, fool! Man, I am dusting off the old banjo as soon as I finish writing this.
But more than anything, I just love the way this embraces its low budget without compromising on its ambition. There are lazers, there are aliens, there are spacesuits, there is combat. Granted, it all looks pretty thrown together, but that’s a big part of the appeal. It looks like the kind of movie that a bunch of friends made whenever they had a free weekend, it’s the kind of movie that anyone could have made so long as they had a camera and the passion to do so. And in an industry where it’s easy to forget the essentials of good storytelling, it’s a refreshing reminder of what counts and what’s possible. This is my kind of film making.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that makes me want to make movies, but, yeah, this is one of those movies.
From its enormous heart to its sense of humor, its genuine characters to its exciting plot, you talk about a crowd-pleaser made for all shapes and sizes, this is the real McCoy. Regardless of age, gender, race or species, I can’t imagine someone not loving this movie as much as I did, and as you can tell, I’m pretty damn fond of it. What can I say, The History of Future Folks is just loads of fun, it’s absolutely wonderful and it’s right up there with Mud as one of the easiest recommendations I’ll make all year. So before this hype train of mine up and derails, do yourself a favor and seek this puppy out. You won’t believe what you’ve been missing out on.