REVIEW: Gunderson’s [2011]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: 2011 (USA)
Director(s): Matt Porter
Writer(s): Max Azulay, Matt Porter, Phil Primason & Mallory Westfall

“That sounds like a supermarket”

A short film inside a short film, Matt Porter‘s Gunderson’s survives as a standalone storyline from the marginally longer work Argyle. Depicting a week in the life of Max (Max Azulay) as he readies to substitute teach a 7th grade health class while the real teacher takes maternity leave, what should be a fantastic opportunity becomes ruined by an unorthodox diagnosis of a new, rare sexually transmitted disease. Saddled by a VD twitch the day before he is supposed to warn young minds away from the unprotected sex that led him to the affliction, Max finds himself free to candidly let the students know that life happens and it isn’t worth being afraid of overblown horrors.

Granted this revelation occurs after he willingly screens a lamely made drunk driving video, one wherein he and little buddy Ray (Jay Fernandez) fist bump at the display of carnage. Suffice it to say Max wasn’t going to be one to filter his adult mistakes anyway, the blowback of Principal Cox (Timothy J. Cox apparently expanding on his smarmy role from The Teacher’s Lounge) discovering the ailment simply giving the teacher reason to no longer care. Gunderson’s—despite being real in the film’s universe—is as laughably absurd a concept for a disease there as it would be here. It serves as the catalyst to make the lead character unravel a bit with his health class and disseminate the hard, unfavorable truths of adolescent fun.

Written by Porter, Azulay, Phil Primason, and Mallory Westfall, the short starts off slow as Dr. Grossman (Dan Azulay) hands out his diagnosis and Max jokes about it with Ray, Simon (Eoin Cahill), and Carl (Mike DeGasperi) with nods to Sweden and Cirque du Soleil. Despite a few funny lines, the characters exist in more of a skit atmosphere rather than a movie one. Thankfully things get moving into a more purposeful direction once we shift to the school for the completion of the tale. It’s here where Max’s actions have cause and effect and where the laughs become more authentic due to the dynamic between he and his students cutting through the lies standardized education builds to “scare kids straight”.

Gunderson’s is entertaining enough to want to visit the rest of Dialtone Pictures’ Argyle whole, but the description for it speaks of an entirely different character at the lead. Besides making me wonder how it can be about someone who isn’t even a part of Max’s story here, it also makes me sad our new sexually promiscuous friend won’t be the focal point. Honestly, by the end I wouldn’t mind watching more of his antics through the growing pains of adulthood. The film is funny enough to keep the broader performance of Cox entertaining as well as the more amateurish ones from the periphery. And with progressive ideas like communicating to kids instead of talking down to them, it may also have a bit of relevant social commentary to boot.

Watch Gunderson’s for yourself on Vimeo.

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