THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


In the opening moments, I thought that Too Much Sleep (the third entry in the current Shooting Gallery Film Series) was going to be another cult classic like Clerks or Slacker. The film's twenty-something hero, Jack Crawford (Marc Palmieri), walks down a quiet suburban street. Another guy catches up to him; they shake hands and exchange warm greetings. Then they proceed to walk together in total silence until the second guy says "I gotta go - catch you later" and walks off.

That's a funny moment and a great way to begin a picture. It's also one of the few sharp moments in the movie. Too Much Sleep wants to be a wacky comedy about one young man's reluctant entry into maturity, but it never manages to be wacky enough.

Pasquale Gaeta and Marc Palmieri star in Too Much Sleep, a Shooting Gallery release.
Jack, we soon learn, is not the most ambitious guy in the world. He still lives at home and his mom still has to roust him out of bed in the morning. Riding the bus home from his job as a security guard one afternoon, he is approached by a pretty woman, Kate (Nicol Zanzarella), who asks him to surrender his seat to a sickly middle-aged lady. Jack agrees, more to impress Kate than to be a gentleman. Not long after the two women get off the bus, Jack realizes that the bag containing his gun is missing. He wants it back but can't go to the police because it is unregistered.

For help he turns to Eddie (Pasquale Gaeta), a local restaurant owner who seems to have an answer for everything. Eddie claims that Jack has been a victim of "one of the oldest scams in the book." (How he accounts for the women knowing the bag contained a gun and not, say, a ham sandwich is never explained.) Eddie brags of his "connections" at City Hall; he then uses them to compile a list of known scam artists who use this technique. Their first stop takes them right to the home of the woman to whom Jack offered his seat. She tells them to get the hell out of her house, but they hang around eating fruit. What does she do in return? She leaves. (Somebody call McGruff the crime dog.)

From there, Jack and Eddie follow the course the gun takes, meeting a lot of characters who are colorful and wacky the way characters are in bad movies but not in real life. Eventually, Jack locates the individual who has his gun. When the guy sees Jack, he immediately begins to run from him, despite the fact that the two have never laid eyes on each other. Perhaps Jack just looks like the type of guy who hangs out in a bus station looking for a stolen gun.

Too Much Sleep strains a muscle trying to be offbeat, but it never achieves any comic momentum. There are occasional laughs (such as when Jack follows that lady around all day, even as she shops for underwear) although not enough of them. Scenes that aren't funny go on too long, while scenes that could be funny are cut short. Writer/director David Marquiling paces the movie the same way Jack lives his life: lackadaisically. That laid-back brand of quirkiness can be done, but it ain't easy. You have to populate the screen with characters we want to spend time with rather than run away from. Most of the side characters Jack and Eddie meet are more obnoxious than funny.

It doesn't help that the acting is amateurish. Too Much Sleep seems more like a home movie made by your brother-in-law and his frat brothers than a real film. Most of the actors look like they are struggling to remember their lines. Or maybe they're trying to make sense of the script. Nothing really stands up to the test of logic. If you think about the trajectory the gun takes, it is utterly nonsensical. Without giving anything away, the movie implies that Kate steals the gun and sends it spiralling around the black market where it ends up in the hands of...someone she could have just given it to. Jack is supposed to grow up a little bit because of his misadventures, but it's hard to take the moral seriously given how silly the lesson is.

To his credit, Marquiling may come up with better material in the future. He shows the occasional bit of inspiration even in the middle of the mess. I wish him the best, if only so that he can someday chalk up Too Much Sleep as an example of first-timer naivety.

( 1/2 out of four)

Too Much Sleep is unrated but is intended for mature audiences. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.
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