This review originally ran on June 7th, 2016 during the LA Film Festival
“Birdman” meets “30 Rock” in director Isaac Rentz’s feature film “Opening Night,” an ensemble musical comedy with heart, soul, and a bunch of dick jokes.
We spend one hilariously chaotic night backstage of the Broadway production ‘One-Hit-Wonderland,’ a musical journey through the poppy hits of yesterday, led by NSYNC’s JC Chasez (as himself). It is high stakes all around as the outcome of the night’s show will determine whether or not the production will continue its planned run or shut down for good. For production manager Nick (Topher Grace), the Broadway stage has become a long forgotten dream as he now resorts to working behind the velvet curtain, comically tackling all of a producer’s worst nightmares.
A wonderfully frenetic Topher Grace hilariously navigates his way through the endless cyclones of disaster. His calm, cool, and collected demeanor is pushed to the limit by his flamboyant friend and backup dancer Malcolm (Taye Diggs), drugged-up diva Brooke (Anne Heche), insecure assistant Alex Bean (Lauren Lapkus), clueless prop assistant Ron (Paul Scheer), and overbearing manager Mr. Goldmeyer (Rob Riggle), among others. However, all of their problems are background noise to Nick as he attempts to uncover the relationship between JC and his ex-girlfriend, Chloe (Alona Tal). As his actions threaten to destroy the show and ruin his relationship with Chloe for good, Nick must learn to face his troubled past if he is ever going to move on.
The fluidity of the film’s pacing and timed comedic beats, coupled with a solid cast of outstanding performances, makes “Opening Night” worth a standing ovation.
“Opening Night” enlists some of comedy’s most talented actors, and with a finely tuned script bringing out the best in everyone, the result is a non-stop joyride of quotable one-liners and belly laughs. JC plays an over-exaggerated version of himself with NSYNC memorabilia plastered all over his dressing room walls and a life-sized and shirtless cardboard cutout in the corner. He is both goofy and earnest, poking fun at his boy band past much to the enjoyment of the audience. Rob Riggle as the larger-than-life, insult hurling manager steals the scene every time. Not only do his cartoonish facial expressions get a laugh, the stressed delivery of his lines adds to the frantic nature of the situation and pushes Nick to the brink.
The musical numbers are another perfectly executed piece of this film’s total package (full disclosure, I am a fan of musicals, however, one definitely doesn’t need to be fond of theater to want an encore of “Opening Night”). If you’re familiar with the television show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (if you’re not, get to watching!) the original, and many times vulgar, songs are the main source of unexpected hilarity. Same thing here, while the songs are all versions of one-hit wonders, the spin the cast takes on them is completely unique.
For any director, the jump from the music video environment to a feature-length film, and a musical no less, would seem like a tall order, but Isaac Rentz is able to seamlessly make this transition to roaring applause. The fluidity of the film’s pacing and timed comedic beats, coupled with a solid cast of outstanding performances, makes “Opening Night” worth a standing ovation.
“Opening Night” is not rated. 90 minutes. Opening in select theaters this Friday, available on Netflix August 1st.