tl/dr; this movie made me smile in a way that I have only experienced with my all-time favorites. The Princess Bride. The Muppet Movie. The Blues Brothers. Which is why I’m so excited to be partnering w/these guys on a 10-city tour of movie screenings + live band performances this summer.
Even of the movies listed above, only The Princess Bride has gotten higher marks from both viewers and critics than The History of Future Folk, which is 93% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with reviews from publications like the New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, LA Weekly, Washington Post, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety. On top of that it won major awards at The Los Angeles Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, and The Friar’s Club Comedy Film Festival, and more. And yet, almost no one has seen it. How does that happen??
This is a movie about music, love, and saving the world. You can’t get much more broadly appealing than that. And it is so imaginative and original on so many different levels that it’s tough to even catalog them all. Yet, this is also a film that is awesomely laden with dozens of moments that are reminiscent of some of our favorite movies of the last several decades, and it is a pleasure to watch.
All of which is to say: I left that viewing experience feeling like this film is a new classic, a movie that EVERYONE should see. If you’re interested, here’s why:
IT’S AN INCREDIBLY WELL MADE MOVIE WITH CHARM TO SPARE — AND THEY MANAGED TO DO IT ALL ON NEXT-TO-NO BUDGET
So many types of creativity had to peak and combine at the same time for this movie to get made that it still boggles my mind. The characters are fantastically original, the script is an understated work of genius, the original music is great, and the direction mixes all of the elements together pretty much perfectly, a feat that very few filmmakers can pull off.
I’m not sure how anyone could feel anything but impressed by the filmmakers after seeing the montage mixing a hilariously seductive tango with the climactic battle scene, or Kevin’s spanish serenade of a stun-gunned policewoman, or the scene where General Trius first shares music with Kevin (which is the best scene in the movie).
Not to mention the fact that this is an indie flick in the true sense of the word “indie” — these guys did everything you see on screen purely out of passion for what they were creating.
And when I say it has charm, by the way, I mean CHARM. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off charm. Napoleon Dynamite charm. Back to the Future charm. It’s a movie whose themes, humor and plot are all universal enough to appeal to everyone — and that is executed incredibly well by any standard, much less for a low-budget indie.
IT’S A GREAT COMEDY, IT’S A GREAT LOVE STORY, IT’S A GREAT MUSIC MOVIE, AND MORE
The trailer for Future Folk bills it as an “alien folk-duo sci-fi action romance comedy” — which is really pretty accurate.
The script follows the basic laws of many of our favorite comedies, laying out a simple story that everyone wants to hear, and then lavishing that story with creativity, absurdity, unexpected twists of both plot and dialogue, and terrifically likeable characters. Much of the humor is clever enough that you don’t catch it for a beat or two, or maybe ever, and that’s part of the power of the movie: the story works on so many different levels that you can entirely miss significant pieces of its awesomeness, and still feel its pull. (That’s what makes it possible for a movie to please people of all different stripes, by the way — and this one is definitely a crowd pleaser for all-ages).
Look no further for evidence of Future Folk’s comedic prowess than Klaitz’s physical humor, which all but steals the show. Or General Trius’ & Kevin’s tactical discussion around what they have to do to prevent an interstellar war, interrupted by their tactical discussion of what they have to do to impress the audience at their next gig. “Maybe we should get a smoke machine?” Or the scene where the police barge into a bar looking for 2 guys in red space suits, and encounter a whole club full of Future Folk fans dressed in red space suits.
It’s not unlike Ghostbusters as a comedy — a ridiculous sci-fi premise with no real attempt to make it believable, but we happily buy into it because the characters and the script are awesome and the story is compelling and oh, by the way, it’s hilarious. And, like Ghostbusters, it’s got a rollicking, badass climax where the unlikeliest of heroes save the earth and turn into real life rock stars. Who doesn’t want to buy into a story like that?
The romance at work in this movie is hard to overstate, too. Trius’ love for his wife and daughter. And his planets. And music. Unfair circumstances beyond his control are threatening his relationship with every single one of his loves, but his total devotion to all of them is obvious throughout the movie, and his ability to forestall the sacrifice of any of them is endearing, to say the least.
Trius isn’t even involved in the best romance in the film. That distinction goes to Kevin’s goofy seduction of the police officer he falls in love with. From the scene where she uses her baton to take out his knee to the scene where she asks “Are you really from outer space?” and he answers in a tender deadpan, “I hope that’s not going to be a problem” — their relationship is a shining light in this movie. And that’s not even mentioning their tango. I can’t do that one justice with words — just go watch the tango scene.
And like only the greatest of family-friendly love stories, they pull off all of this romance without any sex or even much kissing. The romantic moments are sweet, innocent, and pure of heart — just like the movie overall.
Wow, I haven’t even gotten to my favorite part of the movie yet. My favorite part is that it’s a MUSIC MOVIE. This is one of those rare films that is clearly made by people with an implacably stubborn addiction to music, the rare breed of human who absolutely must at all costs keep music in focus as a central component in their lives and their work. You know it when you see it, right? Jack Black is one of those guys, that’s why we loved him in High Fidelity and School of Rock. Mike Myers was one of those guys, that’s why we loved Wayne’s World.
The main characters in this movie are so devoted to music that they make sure to grab their banjo and guitar as they are escaping from a police station, and they end up sleeping with their instruments on cardboard boxes on a riverbank. It’s all they have left in their lives.
Like all of our favorite music features, the protagonists’ road to vindication and total victory runs straight through the stage. The goal is to save the world, sure, but when you think about it, even more than that, it’s really all about getting the band back together and rocking the audience harder than they’ve ever been rocked before. In this case Dee Sinder literally gives the guys a command to do just that: “I want you to rock this place out EVERY NIGHT,” he insists. And so they do.
The History of Future Folk is fundamentally rooted in the premise that music can save our world and make everything right, and I would be shocked if any music fan could watch it without seeing the parallels to some of their favorites — The Blues Brothers, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, etc.
You get my point, right? This movie is awesome in a very particular way, and if you’re the type of person who REALLY loves music, you’re going to enjoy it. I’m talking about if you love music enough that you’ve dedicated a considerable portion of your life’s energy to it. Like, when push comes to shove you’d hold onto music over pretty much everything.
Like, you might risk your entire civilization over it.
You don’t have to be a music junkie to love this movie — but if you are, you’ll find a special type of identification here. The History of Future Folk is OUR type of movie, made by OUR type of people. That’s something which doesn’t come along all that often in a broadly accessible feature film.
ON TOP OF ALL THAT — THESE GUYS ARE A REAL BAND
After everything above, I loved this movie completely before I ever knew how it really came together. And then, when I figured that out, I loved it even more.
General Trius and Kevin are great characters for a reason. They weren’t written for the screen and performed just for that one purpose. The actors CREATED these characters and have lived them on stage for 10 years in Brooklyn. This is a real band, and was one long before the movie was conceived. To say that it’s cool like Flight of the Conchords is oversimplifying the matter, but there is definitely a connection, right?
How much better does that make this whole thing? All of the tough existential questions that the characters wrestle with in the film — How do you choose between lots of different things that are all important to you? Can you reconcile an adolescent devotion to music with adult responsibilities and the pressures of real life? What is the purpose of my existence, and how/can I make everything all right? — these are questions being wrestled with by real guys, and these characters are part of their solution IN REAL LIFE. Isn’t that what we all secretly wish we had the fortitude and skill to do? To dedicate our lives to the thing we believe in most — no matter how absurd it may seem to anyone else — and then to succeed at that very thing?
Well that’s about it, I’m pretty much out of stuff to say. I guess if I had to sum it up I would say that I really liked this flick.
Like its spiritual cousin The Princess Bride, The History of Future Folk ends with the father figure saying goodnight to the kid in a safe, cozy childhood bedroom. It’s a touching bonding moment, sleepy-lidded with innocence. After all of the complication, all of the danger, all of the worry, and all of the struggle — everything is simple again, and our parents can make everything alright. It was all just a story.
And it was a really, really fantastic story, guys. So go see it.
And turn it up to 11.