Harvey Putter and the Ridiculous Premise (2010) – By Duane L. Martin

Back in October of 2006, I reviewed a movie spoof called Dork of the Rings from director Timothy Alan Richardson.  I’m sure you can guess what movie it was spoofing.  It was a mixed bag at best, and now four years later, we have another spoof film from Mr. Richardson, only this time it’s about the obvious second choice for spoofing, Harry Potter.

This film, like the other, spoofs all the main characters of the Harry Potter movies.  Harry Potter is now Harvey Putter (Bryce Cone), Ron Weasley is now Rod Cheesley (Joe Scheibelhut), Hermione Granger is now Hernia Grunger (Sunny Williams), Professor Snape the potions master is now Superflulous Snake (Jim Hall) the lotions master, etc….  Way too many to list here, but you get the idea.

When Professor Mumblemore (David Keifer) tells Harvey (who is basically a rock star in the wizarding world) that he’s discovered that they’re actually all characters in a series of novels by J.K. Bowling, he must collect all seven of the texts in order for them to escape into the real world.  Unfortunately, Lord Moldymort (Alan O’Brien) wants them for himself.  So it’s a race to see who can collect all the "hortexts" and escape into the real world first.

I’ve often said, though more to myself than publicly, that if you’re going to make a spoof film of a popular movie, it had either better be really funny, porn, or both.  Back when I reviewed Dork of the Rings, I thought it was just ok.  A lot of the humor fell flat, as did a lot of the performances, and the script needed a lot of work.  Still, some parts of it were actually quite fun.  Now with Harvey Putter, we have basically the same thing going on, only I actually enjoyed it more than Dork of the Rings because I’ve read all the Harry Potter novels and seen all the movies, which I think is largely a prerequisite for enjoying this film.  After all, you won’t get much out of a spoof if you aren’t familiar with what’s being spoofed.

While parts of this film were great, I’m not going to start with those.  I’ll leave those for the end so we can finish on a positive note.  What I want to start with here is what was wrong with it.

Please Note: When the review was first posted, it contained a paragraph here that I have now removed.  In it, I talked about how there were problems with room and or studio ambiance throughout the film that made the dialogue hard to understand.  I was contacted by Brian McLaughlin, the sound engineer for the film, and asked about it.  When I went back and watched parts of the film again, I realized that the problem I was having was actually a combination of several factors, including not only the accents of the actors and my unfamiliarity with the dialogue upon my first viewing, but also the ambiance picked up by the mics during production combined with the room ambiance in my living room where I was viewing the film.  When those two ambiances mixed and combined with the other elements, it made the problem seem worse than it actually was.  So I would like to apologize to Brian and director Tim Richardson for my mistake.  While there are certain bits of the film where the dialogue is hard to understand, it’s not really a problem worth noting.

However, I do have one complaint with regard to one character in particular.  Kiran Shah played Dumpy the Houseschmuck, and while it was kind of funny seeing him look like an overgrown smurf, his incredibly thick accent and the weird voice made him almost completely unintelligible.  Aside from being able to pick out a few words here and there, mostly I just gave up and enjoyed watching him punch Harvey in the balls now and then.  Understanding what he had to say wasn’t overly important to understanding what was going on with the story, so it wasn’t a huge issue, but it did get kind of frustrating trying to make it out.

Speaking of the story, that’s another problem with this film.  There’s a distinct lack of a coherent story.  It goes so far out of its way to spoof a wide variety of events and characters from all of the Harry Potter films, that it completely destroys any coherence in the story itself, creating a mish mash of events and situations, that while sometimes amusing, mostly just get lost in the shuffle of all the other events and situations that keep popping up.  It would have been far better to write a film using these characters as spoofs to the characters we all know and love, but with an independent story that didn’t get mired down in the chaos of trying to spoof so many different events from different films in the series.  Just spoofing the characters while focusing on an independent storyline would have made this a brilliant and incredibly fun film.  As it stands, story-wise, it’s just a mess.  I would absolutely love to see a sequel to this made in that fashion, because the potential is there with the characters, but they just need a solid story to work with to achieve their full potential.

Now that the brutal honesty is out of the way, let’s get on to some genuine praise…

While some of the characters in this film failed in their spoof potential miserably, either due to poor acting or lack of a decent part, other characters shined.  Bryce Cone as Harvey did a great job of playing the role as a full of himself celebrity type, and Joe Scheilbelhut was great as Rod Cheesley.  The character was basically an idiot, and he’d eat anything you put in front of him, and Joe did a phenomenal job of making it fun.  There were two characters in this film that stood out for me more as a Harry Potter fan than all the others though.  The first was Jim Hall’s portrayal of Superfluous Snake the lotions master.  He walked around in pink robes and was very into making various lotions, but he nailed the voice, the look and the manner of Severus Snape perfectly, which made the whole thing really funny.  I was highly impressed with his performance and found him to actually be the most entertaining character in the film.

Another one that really nailed it was Brandon Emerson as Flaco Mudfly.  Anyone who’s a Harry Potter fan will laugh when they see him on the screen.  He really has the perfect look for the part and it’s just hilarious how much he both nailed the look and made the character funny at the same time.  He’s not in it much, but I did want to mention him because it really was great how much he looked like the real character.

Scot Purkeypile also turned in a great performance as Hagard, spoofing the Hagrid character.  His dialogue was fun and he had these cute little beasties that kept attacking people.

Judy Spigle was also wonderful as Sister Delirious Nunbridge.  Like Jim Hall, she really nailed the character’s mannerisms and even her squeaky little annoying giggle.

There were several other notable characters in the film, but it’s beyond the scope of this review to sit here listing them all.  While a few of the characters weren’t all that great, most of them were really fun and enjoyable, and were largely responsible for saving this film from failing from its lack of a coherent story.  While many of the scenes lacked coherence with each other, the actors really worked their characters and managed to bring out the fun in the film, and for that, they should all be commended.

Something else that was great about this film is that there was some wonderful puppets and even a bit of stop motion thrown in.  They were cute and made a really nice and entertaining addition to the film.  There’s even a scene with some various food puppets floating in a hallway and menacing our three heroes, the strings clearly visible on each.  I love seeing stuff like that in a film, and in a spoof film especially.  It just makes it fun and it brings a smile to your face.

Aside from puppets and stop motion, there was also some excellent use of CGI in the film, including magic battles and even a game of quidditch.  That was a particularly impressive scene and also quite funny, as the bludger was replaced with a badger.  The flying was fun and the field layout and goals were particularly interesting.  The CGI used in the feasting hall at Snogwarts was also well done and reminiscent of the films.

Set design and costuming are important parts of any film, and in a film like this one, they’re particularly important.  In most of the scenes, this film really shined in that department.  There were a few scenes that were lacking, but for the most part, there was a lot of attention paid to making it look good, and those efforts will be much appreciated by the viewer.  As for the costuming, while it wasn’t the case with every character, for the most part the costumes were really well designed and brought out the best in the character’s personalities.  I love seeing films where things like this are paid attention to, because it just adds so much to the viewing experience.

While the problems with the story and the clarity of some of the dialogue keep this from being a great film, it nevertheless is quite fun and the characters themselves really make this film not only worth watching, but something that all Harry Potter fans would probably be interested in checking out.  Therein lies the rub however.  People who aren’t Harry Potter fans and haven’t seen the movies, really aren’t going to get a lot out of this film.  The reason it’s funny is because it’s spoofing those characters and the actors who play them.  If you have no frame of reference, there’s really not going to be much benefit to watching a film like this, which is an unfortunate fact for any spoof film.  However, if you are a fan, this one is definitely worth checking out.

The DVD is beautifully produced with a cover design that is rather reminiscent of the actual Harry Potter DVDs and comes in a 2-disc set.  Disc 1 just has the film.  Disc-2 has the special features, which include behind the scenes documentaries and featurettes, trailers, Harvey Putter mockumentaries, a parody of Daniel Radcliffe’s Equis and music videos.  The film itself comes in at 100 minutes, and if you want to find out more about it, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.harveyputter.com.