Finally, Derek Zoolander has competition for the worst ‘eugoogoliser’ in cinema. This gem of a US indie – written, directed and starring the richly talented Jim Cummings – opens with 11 minutes of raw, car-crash hilarity as cop Jim Arnaud (Cummings) pays wild-eyed tribute to his late mum with her casket behind him in silent judgment. It’s a comedic masterclass, veering from near-breakdown to giddy mania, via a spectrum of facial tics, and it’s all captured in one shot of unblinking,‘The Office’-like genius.
It’s a scene that could easily overshadow what follows but, as a filmmaker, Cummings has enough to say – about grief’s power to uncouple us completely from our moorings and the challenges of parenting when you need looking after yourself – to salt the big laughs with a lingering emotional pay-off. Arnaud wants to be a good dad to his young daughter (Kendal Farr) and he can’t stand to be away from his work, despite the weary instruction of his weary boss, but he’s spiralling. You know the meltdowns are coming, you’re just not braced for how furiously leftfield they are when they do.
In the spirit of many great comedians, Cummings has a knack for taking lines that shouldn’t be funny and transforming them into accidental zingers. And as a writer-director, he has an instinct for when to pull back and let the film breathe. The result is a comedy with heart and the opening salvo from a filmmaker we’ll be hearing loads more from.