A Meteorite for the Mantlepiece (2009) – By Cary Conley

I reviewed John McKelvey’s short film entitled Lunch Break last year. I found it to be a fun and quirky little film. McKelvey’s first feature film could also be aptly described as "quirky." Described as part fantasy, part sci-fi, part drama, part comedy and part musical, this film is certainly different than anything I have previously seen.

I’m not entirely certain I can even describe the plot in a manner that would do it justice. Suffice to say, the film concerns a single mother, Nancy, her baby-daddy, Will, and her longtime friend, John, who secretly pines for Nancy. Throw in Nancy’s son, Nigel, who is an astronomy freak, and that rounds out the "regular" cast. None of the three adults are happy with their lives and dream of making big changes; however, it’s Nigel that is the real impetus for change, as he somehow ends up conjuring two astronauts from his imagination as companions. These two astronauts, Jeff and Wendy, live with Nigel and Nancy and generally make a nuisance of themselves by creating fancy space machines with Nancy’s everyday household appliances. I told you the film was quirky.

Every once in a while, the cast will break out into a song. For instance, early on in the film, John sings of he and Nancy as children living on the same street while growing up and his love for her early on. In another scene, Nancy sings a rock and roll number while Will plays the air guitar while standing on an area rug that just happens to be in a parking lot. Don’t ask me where the rug came from, but Will can play a mean air guitar. There are other (very) strange musical numbers, made all the stranger for being obviously lip-synched–especially Nancy’s rock anthem, which is actually sung by a male (!).

The group goes through the mundane trivialities of their lives, occasionally breaking into song, until they all somehow figure out how to make their dreams come true. Nancy finally meets the man of her dreams–in a bit of a sick twist, the guy looks old enough to be her grandfather and shows up at the very end of the film having never been mentioned before, and speaks one line–and is satisfied with her personal life. Firefighter Will always wanted to be an astronaut, so Jeff and Wendy build him a space suit so he can join their flight to the stars in a rocket ship somehow built from household materials in Nancy’s back yard. The three plan a terrific trip to the stars using fuel based on John’s antidepressant medication. John pretty much doesn’t get anything and Nigel gets a play phone he can use to pretend to talk to his father and the other astronauts in space.

If this film sounds like the strangest mish-mash of genres you have ever heard of, well…it is. And that’s one of the problems with it. McKelvey touches on a half-dozen genres, but develops none of them. None of the stories is truly developed and so the film seems more like a series of vignettes loosely tied around a common theme of fantastical astronauts than a single story. Some people might find the unanswered questions and loose plot ends an interesting part of this entire filmic experiment, but I found myself wondering where the astronauts came from in the first place. With no real explanation, I assume they were created by Nigel’s lonely child-fantasies. And even though these two astronauts walk around in their bright-orange NASA jumpsuits, not a single person–not a main character nor an extra–even acknowledges the magical appearance of these two people, even though they look a bit like freaks as they are walking in the supermarket or down the street.

Some of the comedy is cute and made me smile, but it wasn’t funny enough to make me laugh (although the astronaut stripper sequence was genius, in my opinion, and pretty hilarious as well), and the musical numbers ranged from slightly comic or downright weird to absolutely annoying, as in John’s bathroom medication freakout song. Eventually, the film seems to run out of steam, with the three astronauts preparing to launch from Nancy’s backyard, with Nancy and her creepy old beau, her wannabe boyfriend, and her son all acting nonchalant about the extraordinary events unfolding as they watch. Nancy’s new fiancée asks, "You’re really going to launch in that thing?" and the film ends. Did they launch? If so, were they successful or did the contraption explode, killing them all? In my opinion, the film ended just before the most interesting scene took place!

Technically, my only complaint was the sound design. There were entire sequences I couldn’t hear because of the ambient sound. There were also sequences when the volume of the dialogue itself changed during the scene, forcing me to reach for the remote control.

While A Meteoroid for the Mantlepiece may be too quirky for my tastes, if you enjoy mixed-up B-movie features that offer a bit of everything, then you might enjoy this on a Saturday evening with a 6-pack of Bud. For more information on this film, you can go to the official website at http://tomorrowwendy.com/meteorite.htm or Tomorrow Wendy Productions at http://tomorrowwendy.com/index.htm.