Shot in a Seattle that sparkles with lollipop colors, Rick Stevenson's film could be described as either a sweet black comedy or an edgy romantic comedy; either way, the balance feels right.
Charlie Silvercloud III (Robert A. Guthrie) is facing his 25th birthday with more than a little trepidation: Both his grandfather and his father were killed upon reaching their quarter century, by the same hand — a marauding Smith Brothers milk truck. "Expiration Date" begins eight days before the perhaps fatal birthday, as Charlie attempts to get his affairs in order and his mother, Lucille (Dee Wallace Stone), plots to keep her son out of harm's way.
It will come as no surprise that a pretty young woman (Sascha Knopf) pops up in Charlie's life, that he has an assortment of quirky friends and colleagues, and that death-by-dairy-delivery is played more for laughs than for horror. But while Stevenson's film unwinds along familiar lines, it delivers unexpected charm.
Guthrie, who has the off-the-wall appeal of Jason Schwartzman (with just a bit of Jack Black's impishness mixed in), is a young actor of great likability; you're beguiled by Charlie and his dilemma immediately. He's the calm center of this goofball plot, a character with whom the audience can identify, and he wears the responsibility lightly. Watch this actor; he's going places.
"Expiration Date," with Robert A. Guthrie, Sascha Knopf, Dee Wallace Stone, David Keith, Brandon Whitehead, Ben Ratner. Directed by Rick Stevenson, from a screenplay by Stevenson and Hamish Gunn. 94 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Egyptian.
Not everything in the film is as felicitous: Knopf's ingenue Bessie is just a little too kooky, and a few of the gags involving her dog Roadkill get old. But for every moment that feels clunky, there's another that's utterly charming. Charlie, interrupting a dance class taught by Bessie, picks up a tiny tutu'd girl and whirls her around to "The Blue Danube"; it's an unexpected moment of perfect happiness, appropriate for a movie in which a main character says, "I'd rather go down dancing than just standing still."
And Seattle's landmarks, shot affectionately by director of photography Bruce Worrall, add texture and character. Standing alongside the Waiting for the Interurban statue in Fremont, Charlie suspiciously eyes a child with a milk carton. It's a world full of dangers, but it looks like a fairy tale.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com