Overcrowded (2009) – By Cary Conley

Seinfeld was famously billed as a "show about nothing", and that could be true about many of that show’s episodes. There were many instances in Seinfeld when I would watch until the end and ask myself, "What just happened? Did they really just do a 30-minute show about something that trivial?!" But the genius of Seinfeld was that the creators could indeed create a show around the most trivial of actions or comments and proceed to entertain the entire nation for the next half-hour. Overcrowded is similar to Seinfeld in one important way: it truly is a show about nothing. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end.

This television pilot is a comedy about four male friends living in a garbage-strewn, one-bedroom apartment. It seems none of these guys have jobs so they just spend their days dreaming up kooky ideas and generally being disruptive to their neighbors. While they at first seem to be harmless enough, very soon they manage to absolutely ruin one man’s life. Steven and Claire are new to the building and the four friends decide to meet them as they’re moving in. Almost immediately Steven gains a distaste for this odd quartet, and for good reason.

Each of the friends has his own storyline. For instance, one man is attracted to his new female neighbor Claire and is convinced that she is hitting on him. He makes inappropriate comments in front of both Claire and her husband Steven and even obtains a restraining order against Claire, whom he claims is stalking him. The second friend is a burly guy with a large beard who starts his own bonsai tree hippie cult while in a third storyline, another of the friends kills a Yakuza member while trying to take out a loan for his ridiculous business idea. And finally, the last friend manages to not only insinuate himself into his neighbor Steven’s workplace, but manages to be hired as Steven’s assistant. His ineptitude and fantasy-land ideas eventually lead to Steven’s being fired. All four storylines are (somewhat) pulled together in the final scene of this 40-minute short film.

Another strength of Seinfeld was the ability for the show to tie in all four main characters into a single storyline. So while the show was primarily dealing with one character, each of the other characters became peripherally involved within the singular plotline. Overcrowded seems well…crowded, so to speak, with full-blown storylines for each character. While the writer was able to finally somehow tie each storyline into the final scene (some better than others), the story suffers from too many storylines. Some of the stories are also terribly predictable. It came as no surprise to me when the nature of Claire’s relationship with her husband as well as her neighbors changed–I knew it would happen from the opening scene. And while it is perhaps unfair to compare any television actor with the goofy physicality of Kramer or the manic energy of George in Seinfeld, I have to say I was not impressed with any of the four main actors in Overcrowded. They were quite boisterous, but increased volume doesn’t necessarily translate as being funnier. The acting is so broad that what was meant to be clueless but generally harmless characters end up being obnoxious and non-sympathetic characters. The dialogue isn’t nearly as witty as it should be either, with much of it just plain bad. An example: the character with the Yakuza problem somehow manages to kill another Yakuza member, with his response basically being, "Oops, I did it again," as he rubs his head rather creepily against a friend’s shoulder. The four friends then break out into hysterical laughter, totally dismissing the fact that they now have several corpses in their apartment.

I didn’t find much of the comedy funny at all. A great deal of the comedy was limited to the rudest and most basic of jokes such as the friend who decides to trim bonsai trees and open a business selling them. Very soon he is in a makeshift diaper with a cardboard box on his head surrounded by people who consider him a bonsai guru. His trees aren’t even really trees and are composed of plastic toys and beads rather than leaves and branches. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any humor in this plotline at all.

So as a comedy, Overcrowded fails miserably except for those fans of bad movies who enjoy watching this kind of stuff and commenting on it MST3K-style (you know who you are). The only technical flaw was the sound which caused some of the characters to be unclear while others blew out the speakers. This meant an irritating amount of volume control needed to be used, one of my biggest pet peeves.

Recommended only for fans of bad movies, who may get some yucks out of this one. Overcrowded can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uGuMx_vEnk.