Having recently premiered and picked up prizes for Best Comedy, Best Actress and Best of Fest at Oklahoma's Traildance Film Festival, "The Truth About Average Guys" appears ready to conquer the cinematic world.
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, however, this inventive and satisfying comedy from co-writers and directors Ken Gayton and Jason Schaver accomplishes more on a $5,000 production budget than many of Hollywood's multi-million dollar budget formulaic yawnfests.
What's the secret to the success of "The Truth About Average Guys?"
The film is a comedic look at one man, Jason (Ken Gayton), and his efforts to attract a beautiful and intelligent woman he considers out of his league, Katie (Erika Walter). To accomplish this seemingly impossible task, he enlists the help of his roommate, Troy (Jason Schaver), to act as a "mentally challenged" person so that he'll have something in common with Katie, who volunteers with the mentally challenged and has a sister with said challenges.
While I don't think "The Truth About Average Guys" will be showing up at any national conferences of The ARC, Gayton and Schaver have assembled the film in such a way that the "mentally challenged" storyline really takes a backseat to the simple lesson accepting yourself "as is" even when you think your self sucks.
The secret to the success of "The Truth About Average Guys" may very well be the improvisational roots of multiple members of its cast and production crew. Gayton and others are members of Chicago's Adjusted Gratuity, a Second City style improv group. The film is at its best when this improvisational flair keeps the pace moving along and the script feeling natural. On the other hand, "The Truth About Average Guys" flags a bit in a couple of scenes when the pace slows down and the "script" becomes a bit more evident.
The film's other secret really is no secret...Gayton and Schaver, along with co-star Erika Walter and a strong supporting cast, work well within their budget constraints and trust each other's comedic skills enough that their chemistry sells the storyline.
Gayton, who brings to mind Justin Long if Justin Long could actually act, does a nice job balancing Jason as an insecure nice guy, a bit horny and a bit stupid but infinitely likeable. "The Truth About Average Guys" doesn't work if we don't care about Jason, and Gayton makes sure we do.
As the object of his affection, Erika Walter ("Stolen Horses") is the perfect blend of sincere, sexy, sweet and funny. Reminiscent of Katherine Heigl's turn in "The Ringer," Walter plays Katie who, most likely, really is out of Jason's league but gives her just enough humanity to take us along for the film's 83-minute ride. It's easy to see why Walter captured Traildance's Best Actress prize, and this performance indicates a solid gift for romantic comedy.
As the film's funny man, Jason Schaver IS over-the-top as Troy but never in a way that demeans, though I felt the same way about "Tropic Thunder" and we all saw the crap that film endured for its portrayal of "simple Jack."
Despite the film's incredibly modest budget, tech credits are surprisingly solid across the board with only occasional camera issues and sound mix problems. While the modest budget is noticeable, it isn't a hindrance.
While the storyline is a tad familiar, perhaps making it difficult for the film to find a life on DVD, "The Truth About Average Guys" is the kind of film that I look for when I'm checking out the latest independents on Netflix and hoping to find an undiscovered jewel.
Funny, sweet and with characters you'll recognize, the truth is this is a film you will enjoy.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic