Monday, January 29, 2018

Bucky and the Squirrels

Alvin and the Chipmunks have posted three #1 hits, placed fourteen songs on the charts, and won six Grammys, so far. In contrast, Bucky and the Squirrels were one-hit wonders. To be fair, the flesh-and-blood Appleton, Wisconsin garage band that made good never had a chance to follow-up “Do the Squirrel,” because their tour plane was lost over the Alps—until now. The fictional cult favorites will be thawed out like Austin Powers in Allan Katz’s Bucky and the Squirrels (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the Squirrels, much like the rest of 1960s. They had one hit and it sounded a lot like any number of tunes from that era. Nevertheless, they had their fans, so there is intense media interest when the Squirrels are discovered frozen in time. To prevent shock, the Squirrels will be defrosted in an Appleton clinic, where Dr. Adams, the staff psychologist will ease them into 21st Century life.

So, if the Mike Meyers comedies were too intense for you, The Squirrels might be just your speed. Katz (a veteran sitcom writer and producer, who served long stints on shows like MASH, Rhoda, and Laugh-In) seems to be going more for happy sighs than belly laughs, but he understands how to mine the nostalgia of his material. He also scores several big names cameos. Some are pretty painful, including appearances by Mike Farrell and Jason Alexander, but Richard Lewis is pretty hilarious.

As experienced improv performers, Josh Duvendeck, Kyle S. More, Matt Cook, and Matt Shively dive into the goofiness of the revived Squirrels’ new infantile period. Katz himself also scratches out a fair number of laughs as their old manager, Mort Fishbeck. However, the real surprise is the strong and appealing presence of Jill Lover as the dedicated Dr. Adams.

If you know your Monkees TV and Beatles movies inside-and-out than maybe The Squirrels will speak to your soul. For the rest of us, it is a nice little spoof that is pleasant to spend time with. It is also encouraging to see a cat like Katz still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Recommended for baby-boomers who will relate, Bucky and the Squirrels opens this Friday (2/2) in LA, at the Laemmle Town Center 5, Monica Film Center, and Playhouse 7—and it is currently playing in Appleton at the Hollywood and Valley Grand Cinemas.