You’d think this Hess film would be a passing fad in my life, but instead it’s become the film that I must watch once a year. From the beginning credits, you’ll see what the Hesses appreciate: traditional sci fi … or at the very least, pulp sci fi covers. There is a glorious rolling out of these covers as the credits roll, set against the Zager and Evans’ song “In the Year 2525”.
The first scene in the film sets up the hopeful heart of a geek: Benjamin Purvis is a homeschooled teenager, whose father died at some point in his youth. His father is the image of masculinity, a Forest Service ranger with a bushy beard. In his honor, Benjamin has written a completed sci fi novel, which he is ready to turn into a contest at the Cletus Fest, adjudicated by a famous sci fi novelist whom Benjamin admires.
From there, it dawns on the audience that the entire world is set against a young man with a masculine vision succeeding in the world. His mother, played by Jennifer Coolidge, is well-meaning, but doesn’t understand her son. The homeschool group is populated by domineering girls and sexually obscure boys (represented by the characters Tabatha and Lonnie respectively). The famous sci fi novelist Benjamin admires turns out to be a creepy washed-out writer with an overbearing ego (Dr. Ronald Chevalier, played by Jemaine Clement). As Benjamin’s novel gets out into the world, it’s corrupted by a couple of amateur filmmakers (also Tabatha and Lonnie) and plagiarized by Chevalier.
While Tabatha and Lonnie are busy sexualizing the story by means of Lonnie dressed up in drag, Chevalier has flipped Benjie’s main character from a masculine guy like his father, complete with beard, into a trannie with Marilyn Monroe blond hair and a pink outfit. The film is studded with B-movie sci-fi scenes, which serve to demonstrate the destruction of Benjamin’s innocent and hopeful vision.
Benjamin is, of course, vindicated and his vision restored in the end, but it’s only after he gets angry enough to go rogue, defending his mom against a perv and confronting Chevalier face-to-face. In other words, he has to wake up from his innocent childhood where his single mom has always protected him and become a man — a masculine man, like his father.
There are a few really gross scenes in this film, with characters vomiting, etc. It has the same kind of zany adolescent-boy style humor you’ll find in all Hess films. Some people can’t handle that. Some can’t handle the absurdity of the B-movie scenes. But if you can handle all that, I recommend this film. It’s heart-warming to see a boy whose vision has been completely skewed and misunderstood stick to his principles anyway and become a bestselling author. You can see why this film might be crack for me, despite that I’m a female author not exactly fighting for my masculine vision. Rather, it appeals to my desire to be understood and successful while maintaining my standards.
In addition to all of the above — the geek sci-fi homeschool and writing world, the great comedians (I mentioned Jennifer Coolidge and Jemaine Clement, but it also has Mike White and Sam Rockwell) — the soundtrack is amazing. No, it really is. It has songs by Ray Lynch, Scorpions, Buck Owens, etc. There’s no scene quite as amazing to me as the one when Benjamin steps out of the bank after he realizes the check the filmmakers cut for him is dated for a distant point in the future, and he catches the film parade of the cross-dressing Lonnie slapping a fake deer rump in slow motion to Wind of Change. Now you’re beginning to understand why I like it so much. The only video I could find of said scene is posted below (there are two spots where there’s German overdubbing, oh well):