By: Addison Wylie
Patch Town is royally ambitious. It’s also incredibly hard to synopsize making it harder to recommend despite it being a highly enjoyable live-action fairy tale.
Craig Goodwill, a filmmaker who’s been comfortable making short films, expanded on his original short Patch Town and adapted it into a real nifty feature. He’s drawn on David Lynch’s Eraserhead to define the film’s industrial dystopia where obedient workers withdrawal babies from heads of cabbage. All of Patch Town’s more flamboyant qualities look as if they’ve been influenced by Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera. Makes sense since, after all, Goodwill’s feature is a musical. I did mention that, right?
In order to enjoy Patch Town, it helps to go into the film with a mind as open as one of those former cabbages. That remark isn’t meant to undercut Goodwill’s hard work or to disown how entertained I was by his indie, but when movie goers are venturing into a film this unique, its good to know what sort of mood they’ll expect.
Even then, this review can’t really embody what Goodwill has done so well. Goodwill and co-collaborator Jessie Gabe have thoughtfully pieced together a story that doesn’t overreach, and feels settled within its own off-the-wall reality. In fact, when the film enters “the real world” ala a wintery Toronto, the fantastical world Goodwill has built seems more believable. I remember Thor having this same quirk.
The filmmaker’s script (to which he co-wrote with Trevor Martin and A Little Bit Zombie’s Christopher Bond) is funny and clever in ways that mainstream fairy tales like Mirror Mirror dream to be. The writing sets itself in magical world, involves mature perspectives through sensational song, and features oddball characters wittily and honestly conversing. Ken Hall steals the show with his portrayal of a wise guy right-hand man to Julian Richings’ mischievous thin-lipped villain. He’s sneaky and knows he’s a pro at capturing people, but often finds himself with his foot in his mouth.
Rob Ramsay is greatly satisfying as our lighthearted hero, Jon – one of those meek workers. He dreams of having a family with the fetching Mary and their adorable baby he’s smuggled out of the cabbage plant. However, their sudden escape away from Big Brother causes a disruption.
Patch Town is kooky fun that only feels heavy when a kidnapping plot is played as seriously as possible (including a skilled but all too sober turn from Zoie Palmer). The only thing inexplicably strange about the film is its mid-Spring release. WIth most of the film taking place around Christmas and Jon’s hurried gig as a mall Santa Claus, Patch Town demands a November release to counter big-budget commercial fare. On second thought, cabbage babies and lost children don’t exactly scream “happy holidays” either.