Directed by Noam Tomaschoff.
Starring Tara Holt, Stephen Friedrich, Richard Kind, Christopher Lloyd, Joe Adler, Nadia Alexander, Austin Crute, Sarah Yarkin, Devere Rogers, Luke Spencer Roberts, Rachel Matthews, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Alex Esola, Joey Lauren Adams, and Andy Buckley.
After being blacklisted from the NYC theatre industry, two Upper East Side New Yorkers, Tucker and Sandrene, decide their only course of action is to move to Fargo, North Dakota, and start a theatrical revolution.
Marketing is irrelevant when it comes to the final product. It’s something I have said before, but Tankhouse is an egregious example where the publicity email positions the film under the animation banner. Technically, there is animation within co-writer and director Noam Tomaschoff’s (writing alongside Chelsea Frei) Tankhouse, but only as bookends to the story. It’s a confounding creative decision to use animation so sparsely because, at face value, the over-the-top whimsical, colorful personalities on display here feel like they could potentially come across less grating if the whole movie were animated.
These characters are supremely annoying in live-action form and don’t behave like real people. And that’s without getting into the crippling fact that what passes for comedy here is either lame, questionably offensive, or sometimes both. That statement is even weirder when you factor in that it’s hard to tell whether the filmmakers are trying to make a family movie or not regarding theatre as a community.
With such a cliché story, it’s also hard to overlook these flaws. Tucker and Sandrene (Stephen Friedrich and Tara Holt, respectively) are lovers failing to make it big in the New York theater scene, which becomes even more unrealistic when their interactive method of acting street-theatre ways inadvertently triggers a heart attack from their friend’s grandmother in the audience. Given their newfound reputation for unintentional manslaughter, no one in the vicinity is longer interested in booking them for roles. Sandrene’s parents are also done paying the bills for the freeloaders, advising them to give up the dream and obtain some real jobs. Naturally, they don’t listen but choose to search for work in Fargo, North Dakota.
While getting their bearings in a new state, the lovebirds also start rounding up a group of misfits to join the routine. They are left with no choice considering Sandrine’s former drama teacher Morten (Richard Kind, who is about the only one here who doesn’t completely embarrass himself) has lost that club and now works in the much more consumer-friendly activity of dancing. The characters Tucker and Sandrene gather range from a blind man who might not be blind, a pair of boys that turn out to be gay but feel like nothing more than outdated stereotypes, a man role-playing as a Viking, and some anxiety-ridden women (one of whom adorns emo fashion that feels disingenuous on behalf of the performance and filmmakers).
Together, they start practicing routines in an abandoned warehouse (the titular Tankhouse), except there’s never once a reason to cheer on these characters. Tucker is self-absorbed and pretentious, not in an endearing way to watch, either. He prohibits Sandrene from pursuing her dreams in the world of television and quickly shows his insecurities when she befriends another man. The script is also so focused on their dysfunction that there’s no room or time to draw any of the supporting cast beyond their basic personality traits. Tucker’s narcissism only worsens when he gets some bad news concerning his mentor Buford (Christopher Lloyd with nothing remotely interesting or funny to do).
Tankhouse tries to turn all of this into comedy but is frequently grating and wrongheaded, with only flashes of inspired silliness.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com