In 2002, director Jonas Akerlund took a ride on the indie film hype train for his meth scene movie featuring an ensemble cast, Spun. While Spun was chalk full of quirky characters and generally fun to watch, the movie itself didn’t quite amount to much. The stakes were never that high for it’s plot or story, and as professional of a director Ackerlund become, mostly due to his extensive work in the music video genre, his film directing career has seem to suffer from a lack of arc.
To be honest with you here, his latest film, 2012’s Small Apartments, isn’t really something that one would refer to as good. Ackerlund has again put together an ensemble cast playing quirky characters, with an offbeat overall flow to the movie.
Franklin Franklin is a clumsy, shut in, ne-er-do-well residing, sans pants, in a small apartment among other extreme oddballs. Neighbor number one is heavy metal pothead Johnny Balls, played by Johnny Knoxville, and neighbor number two is cantankerous curmudgeon Mr. Allspice, played by James Caan. James Caan plays the type of neighbor that is very easy to hate, and, he does so in way that is way less James Caany than any of his recent performances.
A series of strange events bring these characters together and intertwine the lives of a self help guru, played by Dolph Lundgren, and an arson investigator with marital problems played by Billy Crystal.
This movie isn’t so much smart as it playful, and the directing hand of Jonas Ackerlund seems a bit more seasoned this time around. Although not without it’s storytelling gimmicks, the ones that are present don’t feel forced and genuinely help to paint a picture. The thing that stands out the most is the fact that most, if not all of the characters experience some sort of growth along the way, and that is something rarely seen even in the best of movies these days.
While initially you may not want to spend too much time with the gang from Small Apartments, as Johnny Balls could really use a bath, and Franklin Franklin is in need of passable social skills, in the end you just might consider the time used to view their journey as adequately spent.