“Millennium Bugs” is a murky look back at Y2K Eve, a comedy that struggles to find laughs in end-of-the-90s fashions, slang and panic over what the world might look like when computers glitch as the year 2000 begins.
It’s a mirth-starved “romp” about two friends, hearing “The End is Nigh” and not taking that nonsense literally even as each recognizes they’re at a crossroads, and their lives are due a reset, starting Jan. 1, 2000.
Think “American Graffiti” and “High Fidelity” in terms of themes and genre, without the wit, budget, or cast to pull that off.
Kelly (Katy Erin) is a wild child winding down a year-long-bender, finally at the end of the estate her dead-before-their-time parents left her. She is drunk, irresponsible, a loose cannon whom we meet as the cops pick her up at home, someone who sees rules as for “other” people.”
Michael Lovato plays Miguel, her more-focused friend, a clerk at Vulcan Video who tolerates Kelly’s impositions, ignoring of rules and the fact that she’s been known to stash a joint in DVDs nobody ever rents at the shop.
Miguel is an aspiring stand-up who desperately wants admission to an LA improv troupe. His more traditional Mexican-American parents see grad school in his future.
So here they are, broken Kelly and despairing, just-dumped Miguel, counting down the days, hitting the stand-up clubs and bars of “Duke City” (filmed in New Mexico), night-crawling because stopping and thinking means they’d have to make a decision about where to go and what to do to give their aimless lives direction and purpose.
The script appears to have been researched by binge-watching “Friends,” with the dialogue littered with movie-and TV series title punchlines.
Kelly’s knocking back the drinks, so it’s “Slow DOWN, ‘Leaving Las Vegas.'”
Miguel’s about to go on stage, so knock’em dead, “King of Comedy.”
The had-his-shot headliner at the club is a local who actually landed an HBO series canceled after two episodes. He blames being on opposite “Monday Night Football,” but his name — Jim Dawson — sets up the put-down to come.
“Yeah, that’s what it was, ‘Dawson’s Creek.'”
To be honest, that’s not an inaccurate mimicry of the comedy of the late ’90s, but to quote Chandler Bing channeling Jackie Gleason, “Har-de-har-har.” Not funny.
The “Graffiti-ish” hijinks include scheming to steal Kelly’s Jeep Cherokee from an impound lot, confronting the joke-thief comic, and getting loaded.
One sentimental moments lands, the jokes pretty much never do. The performances are kind of flat, although Erin fights that with over-the-top rants and leaning into that Every Young Brunette Actress These Days Mary Elizabeth Winstead bobbed haircut.
“Millennium Bugs” has a clever hook to hang a comedy on — Y2K — complete with the soundtrack of “bug” TV coverage, “End is nigh” preachers and ’90s video game sound effects. But this script is too pale and wan to attract bigger-name talent and studio backing bucks, and there’s just no de-bugging that will change that.
Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, profanity
Cast: Katy Erin and Michael Lovato
Credits: Scripted and directed by Alejandro Montoya Marín. An Indican release.
Running time: 1:30