A parody of experimental theater types sounds like a slam dunk idea for a film, but co-writer and director Noam Tomaschoff‘s “Tankhouse” only finds mild success with its premise. Underdeveloped characters and a flimsy plot ultimately lead to the project’s downfall, which feels like a fruitless attempt at insider comedy for practitioners and fans of the performing arts.
New York actors Tucker (Stephen Friedrich) and Sandrene (Tara Holt) have been blacklisted by the theater industry. No longer able to make it in the Big Apple, the couple decide to move back to their hometown: Fargo, North Dakota. They want to start a “theatrical revolution,” and are motivated when they learn the town’s historic theater is hosting a competition where the winners will get the chance to take over the auditorium. Their only competition is led by Sandrene’s former high school drama teacher, Morten (Richard Kind). Ambitious and aggressive, both sides work tirelessly to make sure their casts emerge the winner.
This movie will especially appeal to theater kids, and anyone who has ever starred in a stage role (even as an amateur) will recognize the personalities of many of these characters. It’s a send-up of over-the-top, goofy theater people that’s aimed squarely at theater folks; if you are one or know one, you’ll get a lot more out of it.
The cast overacts with grandiose gestures (which admittedly fits their characters), but the exaggerated movements and line delivery feel too stereotypical. I can’t tell if the actors are actually any good, which is never ideal. The more amusing aspect of Tucker, for example, is his penchant to over-enunciate (and mispronounce) basic words. His vocabulary is funny at first, but gets annoying and tiresome as he continues.
There are some terrific gags (like a genuinely hilarious rumble in a back alley that ends with a “‘Modern Major General-off'”) and quite a few funny one-liners buried in the dialogue, but the problem is with the delivery method. The characters here aren’t just borderline insufferable, they are full-blown intolerable. I didn’t like any of these whiny, irritating people, and it’s hard to care about the outcome of the story when there’s nobody you actively want to cheer for.
“Tankhouse” reminds me of a wannabe “Schitt’s Creek” that lacks substance and depth, and there just isn’t enough going on here to make it compelling.