Tuesday, 3 September 2013

No.207 : Wilder Napalm

Wilder Napalm at the IMDb

 Possibly best known as an early screen writing credit for ‘Breaking Bad’ supremo Vince Gilligan, ‘Wilder Napalm’ is a romantic comedy involving brothers with pyrotechnic powers.

Debra Winger is the love interest and as the film opens she is nearing the end of a year long stint of house arrest. Her husband, Wilder,  arrives at their trailer and after some fun he heads off to his boring job at a photo booth. He also doubles as a part time fire-fighter and bingo caller but his mundane life is torn up when the circus comes to town.

The star attraction of the circus is Wilder’s brother Wallace who although a clown, is planning a new act, ‘Doctor Napalm’ which involves him using his fire raising skills. This plan upsets Wilder who has agreement with his brother to keep their skills secret after they accidentally killed a man when burning down his shack.

The two brothers haven’t spoken in five years after Wilder married Winger, a woman they both had feelings for. The action is slow and gentle but the film eventually meanders towards a fiery showdown when the two brothers face off after Wallace tries to get friendly with Winger. There are plenty of pyrotechnics but few surprises along the way.

I quite liked this film but it was fluffy and undemanding stuff and a world away from the in-depth characters and dense plotting of ‘Breaking Bad’. Debra Winger was lovely as the free spirited Vida but just a touch too ditzy for my liking. She did wear a sequence of flimsy green dresses but you lose sympathy for her when she gets frisky with Wallace. It is understandable though as her husband Wilder is such a drip and played with no personality by Arliss Howard. They did try to make him a bit quirky but he just came across as dull.

Dennis Quaid was better as the reckless Wallace and he played it with his usual shit eating grin. His relationship with his brother wasn’t really explored and I didn’t see how Winger could have fallen for them both as they are polar opposites on the personality scale.

There weren’t many laughs but lots of quirky touches such as the barber shop singing fire crew who did a great version of ‘Duke of Earl’ and there was a dog with a hat on.

The fire raising powers weren’t explained but were used to good effect with things lightening up and boiling when their passions were raised. It did get a bit silly when they started throwing fire balls like The Human Torch but I suppose if you are handing out powers you might as well give them full licence to use them.

Down the cast you also got Earnest from those ‘Earnest Goes…’ films and an underused M. Emmet Walsh as the fire Chief. It was a good ensemble and there was a lot to like but at nearly two hours the premise didn’t have the legs and the whole thing fizzled out long before the protracted final showdown.

Best Bit ; ‘Dook, Dook, Dook of Earl….’
W Rating 12/23


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