Sundance '13: 'Ass Backwards' Brings Big 'Dumb & Dumber' Laughs
by Ethan Anderton
January 22, 2013
Separately, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael have enjoyed lucrative comedy careers in TV and film. While Wilson blossomed as a "Saturday Night Live" cast member and can currently be seen on the underrated comedy series "Happy Endings," Raphael has been seen in films like Going the Distance and Year One with notable guest appearances on nearly a dozen TV shows. Individually they're rising comedy stars, but when they join forces, the result is a comedy dream team as the writers and stars of the hilarious, goofy and outlandish Ass Backwards, a film that fits right in with the Park City at Midnight selections.
When it comes down to it, this is Dumb & Dumber for the ladies, reminiscent of Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion, and that's meant as a compliment. Wilson and Raphael play loveable losers Kate and Chloe ("Chloe and Kate. I'm Chloe. She's Kate"), best friends who have been together and seemingly never apart since they both tied for dead last at a childhood beauty pageant in their hometown of Neptune. Now living together in New York City, the girls wander blissfully through The Big Apple, absolutely unaware that Kate being the CEO of her own company responsible for harvesting her eggs to have other people's children and Chloe being a dancing girl in a box at a club is hardly rising above their previous failures.
To everyone else, Kate and Chloe are absolute messes, no matter what inappropriate and tacky outfit they change into after nearly every scene. But what makes them so adorable and funny is how much they love each other and how oblivious they are to their shortcomings. Even when they meet the pageant champion, now a celebrity author (Alicia Silverstone) who doesn't remember their names, it just rolls off their back without another thought. If we could all be a little more like Kate and Chloe (maybe don't pop a squat and pee on the sidewalk), and find joy in the simple presence of a cute bunny named Andrew, we'd all be better off. Why get pissed at a skipping CD when you can just learn the remixed version of Take on Me by A-Ha? That's something that should be reenacted by friends for years to come.
But in all seriousness, Ass Backwards is more than a delight; it's pure fun and lighthearted comedy with an edge. From Vincent D'Onofrio as Chloe's dad who lost some money because his store that sold hats made to be worn backwards didn't take off to Brian Geraghty as a rehabiliation reality show superstar, Chloe and Kate encounter plenty of colorful character on their road trip to reclaim their pride and confidence by competing in the Miss Neptune 50th Anniversary Beauty Pageant. It's a road trip worthy of National Lampoon or Planes, Trains and Automobiles with two John Candy's. If Ass Backwards is the breakout hit that it deserves to be, then there has to be more in store for Chloe and Kate, two characters that feel like they have been in Wilson and Raphael's backpocket just waiting to be unleashed.
Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael prove they are great as a comedy duo and also as leading ladies, not to mention as fine screenwriters. Ass Backwards is a testament to the always growing presence of female comedians with wit and sharpness that rivals some of the male dominated laughs that end up on TV and film. Sure it's fun to see Seth Rogen or Jason Segel ham it up on the big screen, but these ladies need their own spotlight. If Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar are the Kings of Aurora, then Chloe and Kate are the Queens of New York, which sounds like a pretty good title for a sequel to me.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10