Movie Review: Wedding Photographers Face Comic Life Crisis in “Sundowners”

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Our heroes figure the central fact of their lives out long after we, the audience, do. Their epiphany comes at the tail end of a 27 minute prologue, that part of the film that unfolds before the title “Sundowners” flashes on the screen.

“Here we are,” Justin declares.

“Did I ever have any potential?” Alex wonders.

“We’re not LOSERS,” Justin further declares.

“You’re right. We’re just not successful.”

“Sundowners” is a daft Canadian comedy about a catastrophe in the making, one we see coming long before those who are its instigators do.

And it’s a smart, poignant skewering of lives of diminishing returns, two grown men flailing at life and failing at life at 33.

All it takes is a trip to Mexico for that to become more or less clear to wedding photographer Alex (Phil Hanley of “Snow Buddies”) and his “phone jockey” (call service center) pal Justin (Luke Lalonde).

Alex’s manipulative dope of a boss (Tim Heidecker, hatefully hilarious) has sent him to a Mexican resort to film and photograph a Canadian wedding there. Alex has decided to bring his no-clue-about-cameras pal Justin along as his co-shooter. Because they could both use a break.

That long prologue revealed that Alex is a frustrated filmmaker, trapped working for a small business owner who lies, bluffs and obfuscates his way out of paying for his services. Justin only found out his ex-girlfriend had an abortion when she showed up to collect his “half” of the expense.

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“We’re 33, and today was our first time on a plane,” Alex complains. “There was a BABY on the flight. And he’s already HAD a more interesting life than us.”

The wedding in a foreign land offers them a fresh start —  a chance to dip their toes in the sea, meet hot resort vacationers, drink the nights away and (supposedly) get paid for it. I’ll let you guess how many of those fantasy wishes come true.

The disasters awaiting the guys that writer-director Pavan Moondi cooks up include a groom having a semi-secret meltdown over the bankruptcy and impending criminal prosecution that he hasn’t told the bride (Cara Gee) about, a best man who lacks the courage to break up the wedding by confessing his love for the bride, a drunken gay father of the bride who can’t control his lust around Justin, soccer hooligan bullies, incompetent hotel staff and the generally inept Justin who brings Alex down to his level.

The disasters herein are well within the realm of the possible, and that makes each failed bar pick-up, each all-nighter-at-the-bar, each missed appointment — “Who wears a watch? What is this, 1996? Am I Chandler BING?” — makes us wince as we laugh at the cascading debacle surrounding these two.

Lalonde makes Justin vulnerable and amusingly clumsy at pretty much everything he attempts. But Hanley, who didn’t just ACT in “Snow Dogs,” he WROTE it, is a real stitch. He plays up a sort of passive Canadian haplessness that is just adorable, reciting long riffs about life, love, work and how he’s failing at all of them, totally unequipped to stand up to bullying, and lying to women in bars in ways that would impress no woman.

“That’s what my tantric yoga instructor tells me!”

Jackie Pirico, as a slightly demented, libidinous bridesmaid/sister to the bride — impresses. And David John Phillips is broadly hilarious as the father of the bride who makes you wonder how he ever stopped swishing long enough to father the bride.

Not every scene dazzles, or even tickles. But from one sun-up to the next, “Sundowners” manages to reel in the unreality of a “Bridesmaids” or “Hangover” and find the funny in the merely incompetent.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity, adult situations, alcohol abuse

Cast: Tim Heidecker, Cara Gee, Jackie Pirico, David John Phillips.

Credits: Written and directed by Pavan Moondi. An Orchard release.

Running time: 1:37

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