A genial shaggy-pig story set in a late-1970s ski town. It's summertime in Ajax, Colo. (a thinly disguised Telluride), and amiable house painter/small-time pot dealer Al Dean (co-writer/producer Geoffrey Hanson) has a dream: to scrape together $7,500 for a down payment on a house, so his brother (Dan Earnshaw), a Vietnam vet, can have a porch on which to roll his wheelchair and enjoy the snow-topped scenery. But Al Dean (as everyone calls him), who's generally attired in a puffy ski vest and wide, Grand Funk Railroad hair, also has the modest ambitions and surrogate-family familiarity of most everyone else in this remote, ramshackle town of quasi-hippies. He'd rather earn the dough selling a shipment of "Nepalese Temple Ball" marijuana than deal cocaine for odious proto-Yuppie realtor Kurt Hinney (L. Kent Brown). Al Dean's shack-mates include Australian bartender-philosopher Errol McNamara ("Bunzy" Bunsworth), who wins a piglet in a greased-pig contest; they plan to fatten the newly christened Scrapple (played by three different oinkers) and roast her in the fall. Into this slacker "Northern Exposure" comes Tom Sullivan (Buck Simmonds) on his sidecar-motorcycle; the easygoing Tom, with his Jeff Bridges grin, decamped after girlfriend Woody (Jamey Jousan) died in a skiing accident. Woody's best friend, bar-waitress and singer-songwriter Beth (Ryan Massey), remains his friend, though both believe Woody would have wanted them together. Now they circle each other in a touching, unspoken courtship one complicated by the still-grieving Tom's memories of Woody (who visually intrudes into the present) and by his unresolved feelings toward Al Dean, who gave Tom and Woody the pot they smoked before the accident. These episodic odds and ends eventually coalesce (like the titular Spam-like meat dish) into a whole that ties together Kurt's big score; an undercover narc (co-writer George Plamondon, resplendent in a brown, three-piece, bell-bottomed suit); Tom's making and screwing-up plans with an increasingly put-off Beth; and Scrapple's consumption of the Temple Balls, which leads to both a delightfully Monty Python-esque animation in the stoned pig's mind and Al Dean's reluctant acceptance of Kurt's ill-fated offer. Like a slow-pitch screwball comedy, it mostly works out in the end. Brothers Geoffrey and Chris Hanson's first feature, made for a reported $1.5 million (tops) and cast almost entirely with non-professional actors, was completed in 1998 and became a minor cult hit through frequent film-festival and college-theater showings before its 2001 theatrical debut. Grainy look and some stiff performances aside, it's a charmer.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: NR
- Review: A genial shaggy-pig story set in a late-1970s ski town. It's summertime in Ajax, Colo. (a thinly disguised Telluride), and amiable house painter/small-time pot dealer Al Dean (co-writer/producer Geoffrey Hanson) has a dream: to scrape together $7,500 for a… (more)