February 5, 2004

Cornell Cinema

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Nowadays, it’s all about fusion. In a world where phrases like “comedy drama” or “action romance” are considered everyday jargon, I sometimes miss the days when comedies were just funny movies without having to suddenly go Dawson’s Creek on you. Straightforward and playfully amusing, Puddle Cruiser was the first product of the Broken Lizard Comedy Troupe — a group of Colgate College alumni known for their recent effort, Supertroopers — who actually raised the movie’s budget themselves.

The movie centers around a simple boy meets girl premise, but what follows is far from formulaic. Felix Bean (Steve Lemme) meets Suzanne (Kayren Butler) at a party and immediately decides he must have her. This goal is complicated by Suzanne’s Cro-Magnon, rugby playing boyfriend, Traci (Jamison Selby), who is not quite ready to let his girl go, not to mention the fact that Felix is not the smoothest of suitors. While Felix chases after his dream girl, his friends struggle through their own share of problems, from being caught by the campus police for stealing food to hours spent stressing over the last digit of a hot girl’s incomplete phone number.

Puddle Cruiser, in ways, plays out like a younger version of Friends, chronicling the adventures of Felix and his companions as they go to school, while at the same time playing up the comedic potential of everyday college life. The film works because it is deliberately irreverent, never taking itself very seriously, as if it knows that audiences won’t either. Felix may pine over Suzanne, but the film makes it obvious that what binds the two is far from true love.

Puddle Cruiser, whose nominal significance is never fully explained, starts off slightly awkward. The two leads are initially jolting to watch, with Lemme too disaffected and Butler too animated. Their scenes together are slightly stiff, but chemistry does eventually emerge, paralleling the relationship developing between their characters. The story also achieves a steadier rhythm as it progresses, which in effect causes the comedy to flow better. With a colorful cast of supporting characters, including the idealistic best friend, the quirky mailroom guy, and the two seasoned delinquents, Puddle Cruiser has all the workings of a classic campus comedy sans the melodrama.

Humor certainly forms the basis for Puddle Cruiser’s appeal, resulting in a film experience to be enjoyed rather than analyzed. Despite the strength of its comedic writing, Puddle Cruiser is far from a montage of skits. The film transitions between different scenes and viewpoints with ease, as if to make sure that Felix and Suzanne’s continuous interactions don’t monopolize the story.

Perhaps also indicative of its lighthearted nature, audiences never see Felix or his posse go to class. They are too busy having fun or having lives, it would seem. Almost like an updated campus tour, Puddle Cruiser offers a view of college life at face value, rejecting the temptation to force meaning onto the mundane. The film does reference common stereotypes about college life, however, and often exaggerates them for comic effect. Even without an elaborate plot, the film opts for a traditional resolution with a climactic “it all comes down to this” showdown between Felix and Traci, rugby style.

If you’re tired of the cheese, the drama, the seriously irritable “lesson of the day” that now comes prepackaged with most movies, then Puddle Cruiser will play like a breath of fresh air. An old fashioned comedy made by former college kids, the film employs characters that are both recognizable and realistic. Like the rebels from conformity that populate its storyline, Puddle Cruiser ignores common expections and instead has a good time.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang