J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Sugar Mountain: A Simple Plan for Simpletons

We think of Alaska as a wild frontier that lags years behind the current trends sweeping the lower forty-eight, but there have been as many as ten reality shows simultaneously filming in the land of the midnight sun. With programs like Deadliest Catch, Alaska State Troopers, and Bering Sea Gold available, how much media interest could a lost hiker’s story generate? Admittedly, some sibling rivalry and sexual jealousy could spice it up a little, but as hoaxes go, this one seems awfully speculative. It is also an incredibly stupid idea for the irresponsible West sibling to pretend to be lost in the wild, but brains are pretty scarce in Richard Gray’s Sugar Mountain (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

After the death of their sainted mother, Miles and Liam West have run the family tour boat business into the ground. With the repossessed boat in dry dock, the younger Liam eventually agrees to his brother’s scheme. Miles will hole up in a pre-supplied shelter, eventually coming down after a week or so, to the relief of an eager media. To make it more interesting, they will stage his disappearance to make it suspiciously follow a very public spat, in which Miles will accuse Liam of having eyes for his girlfriend Lauren Huxley, the daughter of the local sheriff, which maybe isn’t so unlikely a coincidence in a tiny Alaskan town.

Of course, the younger West really has been carrying a torch for Huxley. Inevitably, the two co-conspirators will become awkwardly close as the endure the media scrutiny together. The pressure starts to rise when they realize that fool Miles never made it to his shelter. To make matters worse, recently released ex-con Joe Bright comes around looking to collect Miles’ gambling debts.

If you have seen a film with more stupid decisions than Sugar Mountain, than Dude, I really feel for you. Frankly, Abe Pogos’s ridiculous script causes so much face-palming, it is hard to actually watch the movie—not that there’s much there to miss. Nothing makes any sense, starting with Liam’s mopey infatuation with Huxley when the kind-hearted (and just-as-attractive-or-more) girl from the general store is clearly interested in him. Any guy growing up in Alaska would know better than squandering such opportunities, but Gray is Australian, so whatever.

Frankly, the only times Sugar is remotely entertaining are Jason Momoa’s periodic pop-ins to beat the snot out of everyone as Bright. Sadly, most of the film is dominated by the excruciating Cain and Abel dynamics and the love triangle, which is ultimately resolved in an absolutely risible fashion.

Drew Roy, Shane Coffey, and Haley Webb certainly make the three central characters look and sound like idiots, which could be quite fine acting, but it doesn’t give us much to work with. Arguably, it is even more depressing to watch Cary Elwes stumble around as the schlubby Sheriff Huxley. Forget The Princess Bride, this will even depress Saw fans. Only Hawaii’s Momoa seems to glide through unscathed, perhaps feeling that 1959 non-contiguous kinship.

Regardless, this film is just a mess that would try anyone’s patience. Gray’s previous film, The Lookalike was not spectacular, but it had a basic level of competency and managed to be interesting in patches. So, what happened here? Not recommended, Sugar Mountain opens today (12/9) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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