Gunderson’s (2011) – By Matthew Saliba

Comedy may very well be the most difficult genre to pull off in film. It is such a subjective experience that no matter how great the writing, how sharp the direction and how impeccable the timing of the actors may be, even one’s best efforts fall on deaf ears if your audience doesn’t find your particular brand of comedy funny. Personally, I can’t get enough of the absurd, deadpan style of British comedy. It’s a style that’s been aped with varying degrees of success by American filmmakers and it’s definitely on display here in Matt Porter’s delightfully funny "Gunderson’s."

"Gunderson’s" refers to a new STD on the market and its latest victim is none other than Max (Max Azulay). At the beginning of the film, we find Max at the doctor’s office where Dr. Grossman (Dan Azulay) informs him that he’s contracted Gunderson’s disease, an STD with only one known symptom, a nervous twitch brought on by stressful situations, sexual arousal and hunger. Suffice it to say, Max is shocked and after throwing back a few brews with his friends (which include a little kid who’s also enjoying some beer in one of the many funny sight-gags in this film) he decides it’s best to live each day to the fullest and take life as it comes. Apparently this involves becoming a substitute health teacher at the local school where he regales a classroom of little kids about his sexual escapades and even encourages everyone to come up with two of the most embarrassing sexual situations they’ve ever been in as a way to break the ice. His days as a teacher are eventually numbered when Principal Cox (Timothy J. Cox) discovers he has Gunderson’s, which then leads Max to deliver a subversive take on the whole "Dead Poet’s Society"-style inspirational speech to his classroom at the end.

As I mentioned, I love absurd comedy, particularly when it’s done with the kind of seriousness reserved for an Andrei Tarkovsky 4-hour meditation on the duality of man. In that regard, "Gunderson’s" is my kind of movie. It isn’t necessarily a laugh-out-loud kind of comedy, but it’s the kind that puts an appreciative smile on your face over how clever the writing and sight-gags are. In many respects, the film reminds of me of "Family Guy" sans the non-sequiturs.

There’s also a lot of wonderful performances in the film but the one who immediately comes to mind is Timothy J. Cox who’s absolutely sensational as Principal Cox. There’s a moment in the film when he’s with Max in the hallway and appears very excited over the prospect of listening to Eric Matterson (one of the teachers working there) regale everyone with tales of grading exams in Miami that had me in stitches. Max and Dan Azulay are equally exceptional as Max and Dr. Grossman respectively. Their opening banter about Gunderson’s disease is very amusing and sets the deadpan tone for the rest of the film.

The one thing that struck me after watching this film was how I really felt that this could be expanded into a feature film. And then upon visiting Matt Porter’s official website, I learned that apparently, "Gunderson’s" is an isolated storyline from a medium-length film entitled "Argyle," that features some of the main characters. Though it should be noted that you don’t necessarily have the watch the latter in order to enjoy the former.

But if you want to check out both (and I highly recommend that you do) you can do so by visiting Matt’s official website at: http://dialtonepictures.com