Movie Review: Hunting for laughs and meaning singing “Songs for a Sloth”

A decent gimmick and half an idea for a movie surrounding it bedevil “Songs for a Sloth,” a coping-with-loss comedy that — pardon me — just hangs there.

There are entirely too many “slowly” jokes to squander on a single review, even a comedy with promise that’s left twisting in the wind.

A father has died, and go-getter son Maxwell (Richard Hollman) isn’t taking it well. Manically digging around Dad’s backyard, looking for the bones for a long-dead dog because “It was Dad’s last wish” is just the start of it.

Slacker son Barney (Brian McCarthy) isn’t all that worked-up over it. He’s not that worked-up for anything. Drifting daughter Jenna (Ava Eisenson) was out of touch and didn’t even make it to the funeral, or the reading of the will. She wasn’t there to hear that their father died broke after pouring his money into a fund to create a habitat for the North American sloth.

Don’t bother looking that up. There hasn’t been a North American variety in this planetary epoch.

In fact, even though he drained his accounts and took out a “reverse mortgage,” which means they’re losing his house, too (Tom Selleck’s nose just keeps growing and growing.), the family needs $10,000 just to get this habitat up and running.

Maxwell, losing ground at work, where he scripts industrial videos for Big Pharma, is nonplussed. Barney shrugs. Jenna, when she shows up, isn’t much more motivated.

But Maxwell has seen a sloth, THE sloth, the one their dad obsessed over. And it (a puppet) talks in Jack McBrayer’s voice.

Wassup? Wanna hear an idea for a short story?”

Maxwell breaks out his old guitar and knocks off a “Don’t Let Me Die” song. He enlists Barney to help him get a video of it up online. Even Jenna will have to pitch in if they’re to raise the necessary cash to make their father’s dream come true.

There’s a dopey idea in the “A.L.F.” ballpark in play here, which the movie makes little use of.

We get “the metaphor,” that the son who had to sell out to make something of himself is up against two indulged and slothful siblings who won’t let him hear the end of it, and seem allergic to hard work and doing it quicky.

One of the videos they concoct is cute, but too much of what we see here is Barney’s pitch for “Sad Max: Boring Road.” The movie has almost no laughs and little energy is expended in attempting to get it to come off.

Hollman sings and plays guitar, but he isn’t given any funny way of reacting to the talking sloth and isn’t all that interesting bickering with his do-nothing siblings.

MPA Rating: unrated, squeaky clean

Cast:  Richard Hollman, Brian McCarthy, Ava Eisenson and the voice of Jack McBrayer.

Credits: Directed by Bradley Hasse, script by Bradley Hasse, Richard Hollman. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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