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The Rock 'n' Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher: Denver Film Festival Review

Inexplicable. That is the only word I can use to describe the Oklahoman karaoke comedy The Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams of Christopher Duncan. This very much looks and feels like a first movie from everyone involved, and I really appreciate the time and effort it must take to get out there and actually make a feature length movie. I am not shunning their effort, but this production is a mess. There are so many conflicting ideas, mood, and concepts battling for dominance that the movie slips into nonsense. That is to say it makes no sense. I don’t need lock-step logic, but even the most off-the-cuff, improved comedies (Monty Python, Borat, anything from the Judd Aptow crew) remember to make the plot simple and sensical. I’m sorry to say that the jokes in The RnR Dreams of Duncan Christopher are not funny, the acting is inconsistent, the music is bland, and the plot incomprehensible. Like I said, inexplicable.

Duncan Christopher’s dad was a famous rock star who had several gold records. Unaccountably, Duncan (Jack Roberts) has no contacts and no money, and hangs out at the local roller skating rink with his cousin, Charlie (Peter Bedgood). They decide to make it big on the Tulsa karaoke scene (???), but are stunted by the fact that Duncan has no talent. Though I don’t think this is intentional, they are also stunted by the fact that the Tulsa karaoke scene is apparently made up of only about 10 or so extras. I don’t want to judge, but in my opinion 10 people isn’t quite a scene. Duncan makes a lot of wizard jokes and talks about Dungeons and Dragons, but we never actually see him playing D’n’D. He also has high-fallutin’ ideas about music, but he rarely sings or picks up a guitar. Duncan and Charlie move in with their Uncle Virgil (Marshall Bell), who was in the famous band with Duncan’s dad but looks and acts more like an ex-army drill sergeant. He has a pointless subplot about green energy that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

The fact that Duncan Christopher is nonsensically both the heir to rock royalty and a small town bumpkin is not the movie’s only incongruency. It’s more like par for course. Duncan doesn’t seem particularly strapped for cash, or at least that’s not made clear, but at one point he stumbles into a coffee shop and blurts out “job” i.e. he needs one badly. This is the point in the movie when his rock star (not rock star) Uncle Virgil bizarrely reveals that he is a coffee whisperer. He starts rambling about how you can tell from an espresso what mood the person who made the espresso was in. Seriously. The weirdest part is that all of the other characters in the movie think this is totally normal. There are animated interludes where two kids – Duncan and Charlie, I guess – are being chased through a medieval castle by a dragon. Everything they do to try and kill him doesn’t work, and he ends up being sucked up by a tornado. I think that’s a metaphor, but... for what? And... why? There’s another scene where Duncan croons one of his dead dad’s songs at karaoke to his sister. It goes on for like 5 minutes and comes across as if it’s supposed to be a genuine tearjerker. I guess they forgot that this scene is bookended on either side by dumb jokes and absolutely no buildup to any kind of emotional release. This movie hurts my head.

I feel bad for knocking this movie so much, but it’s really disappointing to see so much obvious passion and energy (and on such a small budget) go into a product as limp as this. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher is being billed as a musical comedy, but it’s a poor facsimile of both. I will compliment the crew on making Tulsa look like an interesting city, a nice place to be. There’s something very special about finding a small niche community in an off the beaten path red state. That comes across both in front of and behind the camera. I applaud these guys’ sense of community, I just wish the movie was good, too.

-Ben

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