Escanaba in Da Moonlight
Written and Directed by Jeff Daniels
Starring Jeff Daniels, Joey Albright, and Harve Presnell
How someone can live for 43 years in Escanaba and not have taken ONE SINGLE BUCK astounds me. Heck, most people take two or three with the Olds by that time. Rueben Soady (Daniels) is one such loser — the Buckless Yooper. Deer season’s open, and it’s do or die, lest he enter the Soady Family record as the oldest loser to not take a buck. Even Remnard (Albright), who can barely tie his own shoes, gets one every year. Things are off to a bad start — patriarch Albert’s (Presnell) special sap whiskey turns to syrup, the pasties are forgotten, and the Ranger Tom (Randall Godwin) from the DNR shows up. Even the hafling Jimmer (Wayne David Parker) gets kicked off the flying saucer for excess gas, and then his almost new Pontiac bursts into flame for absolutely no good reason. All bad omens. Rueben’s Ojibwa wife Wolf Moon Dance (Kimberly Norris Guerrero) even packed some magic Indian potion, but I think the ratio of dried moose balls to porcupine urine is off, and all it produces is bad hallucinations in the audience.
Let’s start with the positives — they got the Upper Peninsula nailed. In a place where bag boy at the IGA is a career, the chance to drink whiskey and play Euchre while sitting around in your long handles is big stuff. And you get the life-affirming ending. From the opening credits, you know someone will over come a serious internal problem. No deep convoluted plot or motivation here — just a slice of life, and be thankful smell-o-vision never worked.
On the down side, the movie is a mess. There are long sequences where nothing rational or funny happens, 15 minutes go to setting up one really lame fart joke, and you sort of hope a kamikaze white tail will wander on set, just to move things along. The aliens (or Bearwok, what the heck that is) never show, and the abduction effects are three guys with flashlights and the cameraman from Blair Witch. It takes the reincarnation of Ruben’s great grandpappy to bring him a deer, hold the gun, and remind him to put a shell in the chamber. This guy is actually NOT qualified to be a Yooper. Who’d’ve thunk?