Monday, November 30, 2009

The Horrors of Retail: The Strip

Guess what, working for minimum wage really blows. Those of us with retail experience on our resumes know that already. Still, writer-director Jameel Khan reminds us once again of the unalloyed joys of dealing with moronic customers and uptight managers in his new film The Strip (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

The strip in question is a tacky suburban strip mall anchored by Electri-City, a crummy RadioShack wannabe. This particular store is managed by Glenn, who was seemingly born for retail. It is one of several franchises owned by Kyle Davis’s controlling father. Temporarily working for Glenn, Kyle is being groomed for a management position, with the expectation he will eventually take over his father’s Electri-City mini empire. Naturally though, he is less than sanguine about such a future.

The Electri-City co-workers are all suitably colorful, including a ludicrously bad aspiring actor, a good-natured immigrant, and the requisite slacker. They prank each other, drink together, and take abuse from unpleasant customers. Of course, the film’s big questions are blindingly obvious. Will young Kyle meekly submit to his overbearing father or choose to pursue the free-spirited Melissa? Care to take a wild guess?

In a role closely akin to his News Radio character, Dave Foley is clearly comfortable as the earnest store manager who seems to have a “kick me” sign permanently affixed to his back. Though Rodney Scott is basically stuck with Kyle Davis’s blandness, but Jenny Wade does make a strong impression as his potential love interest.

While The Strip does not have a lot of really big laughs, there are consistent chuckles throughout the film. It is sort of like watching the pleasantly amusing but not hilarious parts of related films like Clerks, Mall Rats, and Office Space spliced together. The result is admittedly an agreeable film, buoyed by a compulsively upbeat soundtrack composed by John Swihart.

Hardly breaking any new cinematic ground, The Strip still has a nice heart and it is amusing in its own likable way. While it will probably prove too modest to make much of a theatrical impact, it should have a long and fruitful ancillary life on DVD and cable. It opens Friday (12/4) at the Quad.