Kisses and Caroms (2006) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, nudity, crude humor, and language
Running Time: 81 min.
Cast: Drew Wicks, Nikki Stanzione, Nicole Rayburn, Ryan Parks, Bart Shattuck, Ginger Lynn Allen
Director: Vince Rocca
Screenplay: Michael Hutchinson, Vince Rocca
Review published July 16, 2006
Zack (Wicks) is the owner of a small billiards store, who wakes up in the morning to find himself sandwiched in between his ex-girlfriend Jen (Stanzione) and one of his other female employees, Tara (Rayburn, Boo), a bisexual sexpot with a gift for the game of pool. It seems that Jen invited Tara into having a threesome with Zack in an effort to keep him from sowing his wild oats with other women, and as fun as it was for all, the morning brings a certain awkwardness as to where things stand in the relationship. They head into work with this feeling of unease and tension, with Jen waiting for Zack to come around in his feelings for her, knowing that she is willing to please him with allowing him to have other women, so long as she is the one arranging the trysts. Meanwhile, they are interrupted by a cavalcade of kooky customers, including a naked man, belligerent dwarf, and a shotgun-toting, cuckolded husband.
Kisses and Caroms is a knowingly derivative film, patterning much of its structure and sense of humor, both crass and insightful, from Kevin Smith's breakthrough, Clerks. Both shoestring-budget films feature a "day in the life" of employees involved in a particular business, featuring characters in their early 20s, engaging in racy conversations, with a cast of mostly amateur actors. Although it would be easy to knock the film as cribbing too much, writer-director Rocca pays Smith the proper homage, as there is a character in the film known as "Silent Bobette", a pizza delivery gal from "Mooby's Pizza", plus a reference to Dogma in the mentioning of Rufus, the 13th apostle. A quote from Kevin Smith himself adorns the movie's official website, effectively giving his blessing to the project, plus diffusing any possible gripes a critic like myself would normally have about the film's borrowed ideas.
Others have tried to emulate the Clerks formula, most recently in the higher budget comedy, Waiting, but none of the pretenders have been able to best it in terms of sheer inspiration and humor value. While Kisses and Caroms is no exception in this regard, Rocca probably comes as close as any in effectively capturing the spirit, tempo, and vibe. Giving Rocca some credit here, while the formula for his debut film is patterned after Clerks, he does find his own gags and kooky cast of characters to imbue his film with. He also has more of a gift for direction and presentation than Smith did in his first outing, and one could even envision that, if Rocca were given enough money to afford better production equipment and professional actors, he might even have been able to put together a respectable theatrical release.
Given that Rocca shot this film in under a week with almost no budget or people with a wealth of experience assisting him, his film is a remarkable achievement in zero-dollar filmmaking. However, as much as I respect his effort here, my criteria when it comes to reviewing doesn't really take into account the limited production values or the experience (or lack thereof) of the filmmakers. If I am grading films right, I grade them on how they stack up with every other film in the history of cinema within their respective genre, and not on how it compares to others of their similar budget. Given that I graded Clerks (a movie I find very entertaining, despite its considerable shoddiness) as three stars out of five, and the fact that I don't think Kisses and Caroms quite measures up to Kevin Smith's debut in terms of the insightful writing and genuinely funny moments, I would be remiss in my duties as a film reviewer to put Kisses and Caroms on the same level. (Vince: If it's any consolation, I do like Kisses and Caroms better than Mallrats).
Rocca has made a film that fans of Clerks looking for an additional fix can turn to when they are growing tired of watching Kevin Smith's original film for the umpteenth time. It may be an imitator, but at least it isn't a pretender, as Rocca shows good promise and enough sense of his own style to think he has a future in films if he is able to continue working his craft and catching the eye of the people with deep pockets willing to give a young novice filmmaker a chance.
Kisses and Caroms is recommended primarily to people that enjoy independent sex comedies, especially ones that feature raunchy jokes and racy dialogue. Fans of Kevin Smith's films might also want to give it a peek for being cut from the same cloth as his earlier works, although one shouldn't expect a complete regurgitation here. Outside of this, most other viewers might be put off by some of the more gross-out moments of the film, which include such things as a man fishing in a recently-soiled toilet (yes, it is shown) for his wedding ring and a prolonged nose-picking scene. The sheer amateurishness of the acting and overall production also might be a major turn-off to those not expecting it. Taken in its proper context, Kisses and Caroms is a respectable effort, but, like Clerks, you have to be able to look past the limited production values to properly find it a modestly entertaining sex comedy diversion.
©2006 Vince Leo