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To-do List: Make a list of things to do that are more productive than watching “Prince Avalanche”

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Indie film “Prince Avalanche” released to DVD last week. Critics love it because of what it strives so hard to be, but the average audience member will want that hour and a half back.

The film follows Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) as they repaint traffic lines on a section of highway in Texas wiped out by a wildfire. They are mostly on their own throughout the film with occasional visits from a truck driver (Lance LeGault) and a local woman (Joyce Payne). The two are stuck alone for the summer and they have to deal with each other and themselves. They talk about everything from girls to music, and most of the tension comes from the fact that Alvin is dating Lance’s sister. The two characters are as different as possible without being staged by MTV. The men start out mostly annoyed by each other but become reluctant friends by the end.

“Prince Avalanche” is a loose remake of the Icelandic film “Either Way.” It is incredibly slow, showing the characters preparing camp, waking up in the morning, trudging to the road and exploring the destroyed woods. The film began with a loose script, so most of the interactions were ad-libbed by the actors. That’s no problem, as Rudd has plenty of experience with going off-script in most of his comedies, and Hirsch has been brilliant in almost everything he’s done. More than likely the failure lies in the actors’ constraint as their characters and the director’s wish to make a more cerebral film than his past endeavors.

Probably the most interesting part of the movie is the story behind Payne’s appearance in it. She is not an actor, but a woman the crew found picking through the rubble of her burned house. The crew began filming her house but then she agreed to be in it herself. She has some conversations with Alvin and ends up climbing into the truck with LeGault’s character. Everything she does is completely unscripted, and the woman is both a delight and a perplexity to watch.

Director David Gordon Green began in drama and completely switched gears with stoner comedies like “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness,” and he attempted to combine both worlds with “Prince Avalanche.” There are some moments of comedy – it would have been impossible not to have some with Rudd involved – but everything just drags on. Things don’t pick up until Payne’s mysterious final interaction, but that wound up being the end of the movie.

The point of the film is what the men learn about themselves and each other, but there really is no point.  Nothing comes out of the blossoming friendship – they don’t create something wonderful together or tell off their boss. The audience never learns some great truth about humanity but there’s a sense that no one should simply watch passively, so there’s no payoff to the time investment. The best advice would be to find Payne’s clips on YouTube and don’t waste any extra time with the film.

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