'New Kids Turbo' And 'Penumbra' Mini-Reviews [Fantastic Fest 2011]

I'd be willing to be a very small percentage of you have heard of either New Kids Turbo or Penumbra, which makes sense as neither is from a huge hot bed of film. New Kids Turbo is hard-R rated, gross out comedy from the Netherlands based on a successful sketch TV show and Penumbra is an Argentinian film about a real estate deal gone horribly, horribly wrong.

So why should you care about these films? Besides the obvious – they both made the cut to screen at Fantastic Fest 2011 - New Kids Turbo is the Avatar of its country, one of the most successful films in Dutch box office history. As for Penumbra, its intriguing premise unfortunately doesn't build to a very satisfying conclusion. Read more after the break.

In the Netherlands, New Kids Turbo grossed nearly double that of any other film that has been released in the country since the year 2000. Is that a testament to the popularity of the sketch comedy show upon which it's based? Sure. But it's also a sign that directors/co-stars Steffan Haars and Flip van der Kuil have made a insanely hilarious movie in the vein of Super Troopers, only with a better story and social commentary.

Five friends all get fired from their blue collars jobs because of an economic crisis and, when their unemployment checks run out, they decide if the government isn't going to help them, they're not going to help the government. They're not paying for anything anymore. This trend catches on pretty quickly throughout the country and special forces are called in to make it right.

You can pretty much imagine where a 90-minute comedy goes from there. A lot of swearing (a LOT of swearing, especially the C-word), a lot of drinking, stealing and general stupidity. But as the film moves on, you become more and more enamored of these characters and the things they do just get funnier and funnier. I adored New Kids Turbo and fans of comedies that have a bit more going for them will too.

/Film Rating – 8 out of 10

A quick disclaimer before delving into Penumbra, which had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest. The film seemed to be projected from a standard definition DVD and had absolutely atrocious subtitles: misspellings, incorrect words, words cut off, etc. However, none of that has anything to do with my ultimate criticisms of the film.

Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano, Penumbra is about a beautiful Spanish lawyer who is in Argentina to help rent an apartment her parents left. She's busy, stressed, and the real estate agent is late. Wait, there's a guy waiting at the door. Is he the agent or something much worse? So begins a very long build up where the lady's situation gets more and more awkward, mysterious and – frankly – avoidable. Anyone in their right mind would have left the situation about 30 minutes in.

If that happened, there wouldn't be a movie though, right? Penumbra compensates by building suspense that the audience is curious as to what's going to happen. Unfortunately, when all is revealed in basically the final 10 minutes of the film, it's not all that clever or interesting. It's certainly surprising, a total out of left field loop anyone would be hard pressed to see coming, but that doesn't make it particularly original. When your big payoff really isn't that big, it's hard to get behind a film and because Penumbra doesn't stick the landing, it ultimately fails.

/Film Rating: 4 out of 10