Royal Faceoff (2006) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably G, for all audiences
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Alyssa Bernier, Gary Allen, Carrie Lund, Lesley Staples, Niels Miller, Leanne Braman, Greg Longenhagen, Jeff Nugent, Stu Pepper
Director: Stuart M. Pepper
Screenplay: Michael Sansville, Stuart M. Pepper
On occasion, I will receive a film from an independent filmmaker requesting a review of his/her movie, and while I love to see smaller movies, particularly ones not in wide release, I sometimes loathe having to review these films, as most of them are of vastly inferior quality to ones you might find in the theater, made for television, or straight to video. The real reason I loathe to review them is due to the fact that these films are so small in production, many involved in the making of the film will read my review and probably be insulted by a low grade, and many of the reasons why the film is graded low comes from the lack of resources necessary to make a film of good enough quality to recommend to the general public.
Royal Faceoff is one of those low-budget independent films, the brainchild of actor-turned-writer-director Stu Pepper, a filmmaker in the Southwest Florida region who has utilized much of the local talent there. The film revolves around a 15-year-old high school student, Diana Arnold (Bernier), who goes off on an international adventure when she becomes a crusader for the movement to remove the image of the Queen of England from coins issued around the world. Diana feels that there is no reason for the Queen to have her image on these coins, so she starts an internet site calling for the removal of the Queen's profile in favor of someone who is a hero, like John Lennon or Princess Diana. However, Royal Family member aren't so keen on the idea, and they will make any effort they can to thwart Diana's movement from spreading like wildfire.
Royal Faceoff is a likeable movie featuring a surprisingly good cast of actors for such a miniscule production. It is a very ambitious idea for a film, with a unique story by Pepper, nicely conceived and edited together, with a good eye for setting up the various scenes. In its execution, it is somewhat reminiscent of family films of the live-action Disney tradition, featuring a headstrong young girl trying to change the world, only to find the world may not quite be ready for the youth movement to take over. It's made mostly in fun, with a sense of camp and tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps the tone quaint and difficult to dislike throughout.
Now I have to put on the proverbial black hat here and be the villain that says that I cannot recommend this film to viewers who aren't already a friend or family member of anyone involved in the production of the film. The limited production values do mar the overall quality of the film, with oversaturated lighting, hollow sound, and music that sometimes drowns out the dialogue. Even though this is an impressive effort in what can be made with little money, it is still an idea for a film that Pepper just didn't have the budget to pull off. Some independent filmmakers have been able to make movies very cheaply, but they understood the limitations of their budget and reduced the scope (see Clerks, 21 Eyes and Drop Box). Unfortunately, Royal Faceoff's ambitions are too large for its resources, with props, costumes, and sets that constantly remind us of the fact that this is a cheap movie instead of drawing us into the story.
I write this review knowing that Stu Pepper is going to read this, and perhaps not like it much, although I hope he respects the honesty. Stu, if I could impart some advice as someone who is an avid movie aficionado first, film reviewer second, I would recommend that you choose a smaller, less ambitious project for your next effort, or secure enough funding to be able to adequately see your dream film come to life. You definitely show a good eye for making films, as well as for maintaining a fun tone with your writing, and have been able to pool together a respectable cast of no-name actors, most of whom are appearing for the first time in a film. Unfortunately, the film itself is on the long side, with spotty sound and low-budget visual components that detract from the overall enjoyment. Ironically, for a film all about coins, is the lack of adequate coinage that prevents this one from cashing in on its creator's lofty aspirations for a fun, family-friendly adventure for all ages.
©2006 Vince Leo