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SMILING FISH & GOAT ON FIRE (director/writer: Kevin Jordan; screenwriters: Derick Martini/Steven Martini; cinematographer: Fred Iannone; editors: Kevin Anderson/Ryan Rothmaier; music: Chris Horvath, Steven Martini and Bill Henderson; cast: Derick Martini (Chris Remi), Steven Martini (Tony Remi), Christa Miller (Kathy), Amy Hathaway (Alison), Bill Henderson (Clive Winter), Rosemarie Addeo (Anna), Heather Jae Marie (Nicole), Wesley Thompson (Burt), Nicole Rae (Natalie), Jeff Kern (Mike); Runtime: 90; Stratosphere Entertainment; 1999)
“It was meant to be pleasant but I found it uninspiring.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A predictable lightweight romantic-comedy feel-good flick. It was meant to be pleasant but I found it uninspiring. It tracks the love life of single brothers living together in the LA home they inherited from their parents. They search for the perfect woman and end up finding her the way those in sitcoms usually do. The brothers are the serious-minded Chris Remi (Derick Martini) and the younger, more carefree Tony (Steven Martini); they are real-life brothers and they also helped write the script along with first-time director Kevin Jordan. The older and more responsible accountant brother is called Goat on Fire, while the more frivolous wannabe actor brother is called Smiling Fish; these are names bestowed on them by their grandmother, who was half Italian and half American Indian.

This low-budget indie tries hard to be liked but tries too hard, as its charm fades somewhere along its dogged plot line of boy meets girl and then loses girl to only regain girl.

At a Christmas party Chris meets a sexy Italian animal handler on movie sets, Anna (Rosemarie Addeo). He has been seeing a girl named Ali, but their relationship has become strained. While Tony falls for his lady mailman, Kathy, who is a single mom who moved here from Wyoming so that her precocious young daughter (Rae) could pursue an acting career. This comes after his girlfriend Nicole’s accusation that he has been unfaithful because she discovers in his possession other condoms than the one they use.

Bill Henderson, the noted character actor, is the film’s glimmer of hope, as he radiates charisma even though he’s in a stereotypical role of the kindly elder black movie sound engineer who offers his wisdom to Chris in the matters of love. He clues the young man in that real love comes along only once, so you’d better grab it. He goes on to pontificate that it’s called “magnetic perfection,” which he claims can be heard on the soundtrack of a Paul Robeson movie on which he was the boom man. It’s not great wisdom that he imparts, but he offers kindness and reassurances, and does it in warm way. If likability counts for something, Henderson offers that up in big scoops.

The boys found what goes for love in these more mature women, who reached out to these childlike guys in their late twenties and showed them the way to sitcom bliss. There didn’t seem to me to be much romance in either relationship. What I remember about the romances was very forgettable, as was the film.

REVIEWED ON 11/1/2001 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”