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Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast fall for each other

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Let’s get one thing out of the way. Moving is a dirt-cheap, shot-on-video-with-friends, no-budget type of project.

No professional actors grace the screen. The settings look too suburban, as though the movie was taped down the street from the director’s mom’s house. And of course, expensive motion picture film is set aside in favor of relatively inexpensive Digital Video. In other words, Moving is exactly the type of movie I least want to see.

But the web site for Moving intrigued me. A smart, natural sense of humor eased my fears and let me order the tape (still with some trepidation). When it arrived I happened to be in the right mood for the first half of a silly comedy, even if it ended up being bad.

It was to my surprise and to Jonathan Friedman, Matthew Friedman and John McClung’s credit that I got sucked into Moving and had to watch the whole thing.

Stolen, not Burgled

Leonidoff and Jernigan hit the road Ron (L. Derek Leonidoff) arrives home from the airport to discover his house is missing. Somebody stole the whole thing, doors, roof and all. The police aren’t any help, and the insurance company suspects him of fraud. It seems the perps posed as Ron and filed an insurance claim earlier in the week. Now the real Ron is suspected to be the impostor.

Ron’s friend John (Terry Jernigan) had borrowed his car, and he comes to pick up John at the insurance company. They drive to John’s place and notice the police waiting, no doubt to arrest Ron for insurance fraud. They decide to continue driving all the way to Atlantic City, where the insurance check for the missing house was mailed.

The movie follows their road trip as they follow the trail of clues. Carefree musical montages of life on the road mix with funny scenes of dialogue and banter. It’s an easygoing middle act that lets you forget you’re watching amateurs. (Make that “semiprofessionals.” Sorry, Terry.)

A final confrontation changes the pace of the film from “moving” to “plotting.” New characters and conflicts are introduced, and our heroes must think their way through, matching wits with “Leonardo Di Caprio” and his family.

What’s That Smell?

The worst thing about low-budget productions is usually the acting. Bad acting can ruin even the most promising no-budget film. Relatively speaking, Moving fares pretty well. Prominent credit was given to Acting Coach Danny Lliteras

The two leads, Leonidoff and Jernigan, are passably good. Leonidoff is a cross between Gene Wilder and Ben Stiller: strange and evil things happen to his character and his job is to react with wild incredulity and endless resilience. Jernigan is a funny, clueless extrovert, a cross between Fred Willard and Steve Zahn. John is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he’s outgoing and personable, a likeable contrast to the neurotic Ron.

Still, there are plenty of bad actors in Moving. “Di Caprio” and his cronies verge on embarrassing, and a cop early in the film can’t even deliver “what is this, some kind of cruel joke?” with natural timing. With only a few exceptions, the minor characters remind you that this is a no-budget first feature. If there’s a bright side to these bad actors, it is that they make the two leads look like Barrymores by comparison.

It’s The Comedy, Stupid

The saving grace of Moving is that the comedy works well. Moving is truly funny. Several unexpected turns made me laugh out loud. Ron’s car, for example, takes almost as much abuse as Ron. The fact that Ron and John are both writers lets them stage friendly verbal fights over whose career sucks worse.

In a way, Moving reminds me of Super Troopers, the indie comedy about a troop of bored state highway cops. Both movies appeared from out of the blue, assembled by regional comic talent. Both show promise for bigger and better things in the future. Super Troopers earned national distribution with its strong showing at Sundance. With a little luck (and maybe some 35mm film stock) the team that made Moving might just be moving in that direction.

To order Moving, or to get a taste of its sense of humor, visit www.whatismoving.com.