Brian Gianci, Chris Shenkle
Brian Gianci, Chris Shenkle
Stereotypes. I could go on and on about the pitfalls of stereotyping a thing or person, but that would just be... well... stereotyping. On the other hand however, stereotyping also has some advantages - especially when writing about movies. It can create a sense of familiarity that can draw an audience into the flick. There's nothing more comfortable than the familiar and it can also create an empathy for a character. Create a caring feeling, much like the love potion in this film, within an otherwise uncaring or unlikable host. How does this all relate to Brian Gianci and Chris Shenkle's film? The characters here are all so stereotyped, in a not so great way, it really is hard to like any of them at all - and yet through it all, this is still a pretty damn good film. I'll get into all that later on but for now, let's dig into the concepts of this movie. Spoiler free of course.
Ernie Mills is anything but your typical scientist... err... assistant. He's a shy man who hates confrontations, and is living within a hellish marriage. It's when his wife decides it's time for Ernie to kick out his loser stepbrother Kurt, that the plot of this film reveals itself. Ernie, through his job, has been witness to a new drug. A love potion of sorts that has only been tested on rats. When Ernie reveals his plans to dose his wife with it, to make her love him, Kurt jumps onboard with a plan of his own. Kurt is a struggling filmmaker - and feels a real life love potion would be a great subject for a documentary. First, the two would test the drug on other people, document the results and if all goes well... Ernie would use it on his wife.
What a great sounding concept for a film and honestly? I had a blast watching it. It's very clear this is a low budget indie flick, but it's done well enough to be enjoyable and surprisingly, acted well enough to sometimes forget it's an micro movie. I couldn't help but be reminded of films like "Re-Animator" from yesteryear, and yes I love that kind of film. Oddly enough, this isn't a horror movie - yet there really is something within the story that immediately brought that style of movie to mind. "We'll Test It On Humans" is a funny, well written film that did have me chuckling more than once. No question about that. However, it's not without some major flaws - that stopped it from being outstanding.
You would generally think a man in the sciences would be bookish. Perhaps shy, awkward and maybe not exactly a social master. Being bashful has it's problems but Ernie is the literal extreme stereotype. So extreme are his character faults that many, most perhaps, would consider him beyond pathetic. We all love rooting for the underdog - and cheering for the lovable loser is an institution within the movie industry. But not like this. Ernie is so pathetic that he's truly unlikable - and to make matters worse? At no point does he redeem himself. At no point does he rise above the stereotype, into even a cliche territory. Because of the ending scenes, one could argue he actually gets worse.
Kurt, Ernie's stepbrother, is no better - but on the opposite end of the spectrum. He has a massive ego and cares not a lick for anyone but himself. He's extremely lazy and generally, kind of a dick. Anyone familiar with the "American Pie" movies will instantly know the type of person I'm writing about. Stiffler. Kurt is Stiffler to the max. The combination of these two characters does make for some funny viewing, but as I wrote above, it's really hard to actually like these guys. Or maybe more accurate when talking about Ernie, would be to say that he's so pathetic he's actually... pathetic. The minor technical limitations of the budget aside, such as some shaky shots or occasionally strange sounding audio, this movies biggest problem is that you never really like any of the characters. That's a huge issue. Don't even get me started on Ernie's wife. What a complete douche-bag with absolutely no redeeming qualities at all.
... Yet oddly enough - the characters are actually acted really well. The brothers are not just some badly acted cliche - they are simply people that are not all that likable. People like this do exist in the real world, and our two leading men are them. This does allow for the enjoyment of the film. It allows for the comedy to actually be funny. But having some kind of emotional draw, or even a redeeming emotional factor, especially for Ernie, would have been great. Instead, Ernie ends up doing the exact opposite we would all hope... and Kurt stays the same. Joan, Ernie's wife, arguably gets what she deserves. But that's another story.
At the end of the day? There's just so much good stuff here, to say this film is anything but good at the very least. The script is good. The acting is good - and the production value is decent... excellent considering this is a micro film. The unlikable characters, who are are never really elevated to be anything more than they were at first, are the catch 22 of the film. Perhaps if they were written differently, more likable, the movie wouldn't have been as funny - and yet I can't help but wonder how things would have been, had they became more than they started as? "We'll Test It On Humans" may not be an Oscar contender, but still plenty good enough for me to enjoy. An easy three and a half stars.