“The Michael Jordan of competitive fish eating”
Not to belittle the comparison of Badfish to the films of Christopher Guest that the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival’s program contains, but that is some lofty thinking. The movie being a faux documentary is an accurate similarity, yet what makes the works of Guest successful is that they are send-ups of real life events. Amateur theatre troupes perform, dog shows exist, and folk bands actually have concerts. So, the premise of the film revolving around a goldfish eating competition is just too outlandish to be anything other than a one-note joke. I’ll admit to laughing at the absurdity more than once, but that’s where the line of effectiveness ends.
Korey Green’s student film relies heavily on Kevin Polowy’s script, or at least his outline if most of the work is improvised, as I’d guess it was. Consisting of testimonial-style headshots of characters talking about events that transpired with cut-scenes of humor and documents of contests and training, the whole thing really just showcases the performances. For the most part, the actors involved are pretty natural and funny in their delivery. Ryan McKee and Polowy himself play the two best friends and biggest rivals in the area for goldfish eating. Members of NICCAGE, (The National and International Community of Competitors in the Association of Goldfish Eating, admittedly a pretty humorous use of an acronym), they are looking to rise up the ranks with the last contest of the year, taking place at Buffalo’s Wing Fest, before Ryan moves away. The fish consumption can get a bit nauseating, but as a short of only twenty minutes, it doesn’t quite wear out its welcome.
I did enjoy the guerrilla style shooting at the Wing Fest—love that kid with the piercing stare looking at the camera—and the addition of numerous local Buffalo institutions, even if the product placement might have given them a little monetary tradeoff. Even the jokes are timely, focusing a large part of the fish eating rule book towards the fact all fish must stay down for thirty minutes before throwing up—a nice nod to Kobayashi’s reversal during a Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest a couple years back. But, besides a wonderfully funny supporting role from Jen Kidwell as Ryan’s girlfriend, and a total belly-laugh inducing moment courtesy of an extra’s expletive-laced passing by the camera in response to Ryan’s hello, the rest seems a little forced. The good news, though, is that despite the shortcomings, these are still young aspiring filmmakers and their film did cause some genuine laughs. So, the future is bright and hopefully they hone their skills and continue to improve.
Badfish 5/10 | ★ ★