2 stars (out of four)
Reality TV, says one character in Greg Pritikin's "Surviving Eden," makes you stupid and ill. The movie tries hard to prove it. Partly deploying the mockumentary style of a Christopher Guest comedy, it recounts the ludicrous misfortunes of convenience store employee Dennis Flotchky (Michael Panes), an obese loser who is entered on a reality TV show called "Surviving Eden" as a joke by his roommate. Naturally he wins. And naturally he finds, to his chagrin, that having a lot of money, shedding about 150 pounds and living the high life in L.A. can create more problems than they solve.
Ex-Chicagoan Pritikin has some good ideas and some funny scenes here, and he has a good cast to carry them out--including Panes, a dead ringer for the young Peter Sellers when in his thin phase. "SNL's" Cheri Oteri and Savannah Haske are good as fellow contestants Marie (a bad girl) and Sister Agnes (a good one). Jane Lynch (of Steppenwolf and Second City) and Sam Robards as coked-up or slimy brains behind "Eden," capture the brazen con you may need to put together a show like this.
Best of all is Peter Dinklage, who plays Dennis' roommate Sterno, the guy who gets him into the show. Dinklage's presence and wit would let him steal all of his scenes, even without his 4-foot-5-inch stature; he comes across at times like a pint-size mix of Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Nicholson. This week's "Lassie" and "Find Me Guilty," though, are the two Dinklage movies and performances you'll remember from 2006. This is the one, mercifully, that you may forget (though he's more than good in all of them).
Panes is such a dead ringer for the young Peter Sellers that at times "Eden" seems like some bizarre clone of a Sellers movie--but one derived from mediocre stuff like "The Bobo" rather than classics like "The Pink Panther" and "Dr. Strangelove." There's nothing classic about "Surviving Eden," even if it is better than reality TV.
Written and directed by Greg Pritikin; story by Joanne Storkan; photographed by Frederic Goodich; edited by Michael Palmerio; production designed by Matt Myhall; music by Ian Whitcomb; produced by Lisa Larrivee. A Good Films Releasing release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:29. No MPAA rating. Adult (for sexuality, partial nudity, drug use and language).
Dennis - Michael Panes
Marie - Cheri Oteri
Maude - Jane Lynch
Gary - Sam Robards
Sister Agnes - Savannah Haske
Sterno - Peter Dinklage
Dr. Levine - John LandisCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun