In the summer of 2005 when Hollywood bemoaned a huge decline in box office receipts while it released remakes of TV reruns (Dukes of Hazard, Bewitched, Guess Who, and so on), it was a good time to see what independent moviemakers have available on the market place. After all, all you will get to watch this fall is the Dvd release of the same turkeys no one is buying tickets for this summer. Just Add Pepper by Peter Paul Basler is a fun little romantic comedy and indie movie.
Ethan "Pepper" McClure has had a crush on his brother's ex-girlfriend Sarah ever since he was twelve. When Sarah (Jessica Gannon) comes back to town after a year abroad to try and find herself, Pepper sees this as an opportunity to declare his love for her. Of course, Pepper is not real great at romance and his best friend Forbes is no help at all.
There is lots to like in this movie. Basler has a quirky sense of humor so there are many running gags such as Forbes' different costumes, the slacker video store clerk who never works, the scene involving Pepper trying to get in the bathroom, and the scenes when Forbes gets dropped off by various women who tell him to get lost.
I feel you have to be a little bit more lenient with indie movies. You cannot realistically expect Hollywood production values and perfect takes each and every time when the budget for location shooting for this movie was all of sixty dollars. But even if you do cut Just Add Pepper a little slack here and there for continuity problems and the occasional could have done another take on this scene moments, it is still a fun little romantic comedy that is very self-aware, self-referential, and borrows the talking to the camera bit from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Jessica Gannon is great if not always perfect in this movie and there are definite moments where she will definitely remind you of some of Jodie Foster's best scenes. David Ranson plays a very believable nerd who is afraid of losing his best friend to a girl, and David McCallum is not bad at all as Pepper.
Another good thing about this independently produced movie is it does not feature any of the annoying traits (aside from very banal music) that often turn me off indies. It is not self-indulgent, it is not just a way for the director to show how many fancy camera angles he can shove in 90 some minutes, it does not feature a bunch of in-jokes only the people who made or paid for the movie understand, and you never get the feeling someone got a part because he or she sleeps with someone on the crew.
Although Just Add Pepper does meander a bit and you occasionally get the feeling the people in the movie know a little more about their characters' history than you do, it is overall an enjoyable little movie. The price is definitely right too.
Extras feature fake deleted scenes and audio commentary by Basler, McCallum, and Hanson. The audio commentary is as ordinary as on most Hollywood releases although it is kind of fun to hear the stories behind this low-budget movie.