Director: Todd Rohal
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 73 Minutes
[This is a repost of our review from SXSW 2015, Uncle Kent 2 is in limited release and on VOD today.]
Back in 2011, director Joe Swanberg created a little indie film called Uncle Kent, which took a semi-biographical look at the life of Kent Osborne, a writer and animator for such shows as Adventure Time and Spongebob Squarepants.
The film had a very lo-fi aesthetic and was very much within the confines of the mumblecore subgenre Swanberg had a hand in co-creating. After watching a film like this, one wouldn’t immediately think a sequel would be warranted, or even desired, but here we are with Uncle Kent 2, a film that takes the concept of the sequel and completely subverts expectations, creating one of the most absurd comedies of the year.
The film opens with Osborne jotting down ideas for Uncle Kent 2 on a tablet before going to Joe Swanberg’s birthday party to pitch him the idea. The look and comedic style feels very much like a Swanberg joint, probably because he directed the first twelve minutes of the movie. Now, at this point I was thinking this is going down the Adaptation route wherein it’s a movie about him writing the movie we’re watching. But then after the 12-minute Swanberg portion, the real movie begins, and things get…stranger. The frame opens to a 16:9 aspect ratio, and we watch Osborne’s man boobs dancing on the screen with title card animation playing overtop, courtesy of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. This is a perfect transition from the previous prologue involving Swanberg telling Osborne he hates sequels.
Todd Rohal takes over the reins of directing the latter portion in which Osborne heads to Comic-Con in San Diego for work and begins a slow descent into madness, where – with each passing moment – things edge ever so closer to complete, absurdist chaos. This is certainly not a comedic style for everyone, comparable to the works of Tim and Eric or Quentin Dupieux, but as a fan of that style of humor, I was eating it up.
Osborne and Rohal bring a number of familiar faces and talented people along for the ride this go round, with appearances from Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal, Steve Little, Jennifer Prediger and Robert Longstreet, who plays a hotel clerk enjoying some barbecue ribs; it’s ridiculous in the best kind of way.
What begins as Osborne going to the doctor (played by the always funny Steve Little) because he can’t get the Swing Out Sister song “Break Out” out of his head slowly tumbles down the rabbit hole of his own brain as he progressively loses his grip on reality.
Uncle Kent 2 is an over-the-top, joyously fun romp that manages to be both wildly different than the original while still retaining its biographical feel, despite all the craziness that occurs. Although it does at times teeter on being too goofy for its own good, these moments were fleeting and in no way detracted from the overall craziness that is Uncle Kent 2.