Between June 5th and 30th 2008 you can watch The Imortance of Being Russell for free at independentfeatures.com and cast your vote for its inclusion in July's Tribecca Film Festival
A second and a half into Sean Plemmons's lovably lo-fi adventure, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Even in an era of direct-to-YouTube rubbish, there's still room for some good, honest crap. The Importance of Being Russell is a campy, home video-ish B-movie that bounces back and forth between the kitschy cool and the downright stupid. Russell isn't in the same leagues as cult classics like Mutant on the Bounty or The Toxic Avenger. In fact, it's not even Surf Nazis Must Die. No, this movie comes off more like the unholy offspring of Hairspray (the original) and Beavis & Butthead (the only).
Russell is an obscure inventor toiling away deep in redneck territory. After a decade of marriage, yet another wifely nag is the excuse he needs to head for Big City to find a part for one of his gewgaws. On the way, he picks up his two buds, Harlan and Jamon. The three end up with a whole plateful of adventure, courtesy of shadowy agents intent on profiting from Russell's creative genius. A kind of dim hilarity ensues as the hapless rednecks try to avoid being made into preppies with table manners.
Is The Importance of Being Russell Bad? Enthusiastically so - which, as any John Carpenter connoisseur will point out, can be a great thing. Unfortunately, the movie has few of the qualities that made Carpenter into a cult phenom. The plot points unfold in an unbearable line of non-surprises, leading the viewer inexorably towards an ending best described as obvious, and which leaves him or her with a feeling of "so what?"
But you have to hand it to Plemmons for his all-out, Devil-may-care style: Even with its remedial-level scriptwriting and gaping plot holes, the exuberantly over-the-top imagery and creatively goofy story make this movie kind of enjoyable... once the last trace of your mind has dribbled into your popcorn.
Jesse Corbeil is a freelance writer. His website is www.jessecorbeil.ca