Todd W. Langen is an award-winning screenwriter whose credits include the critically-acclaimed TV series THE WONDER YEARS and the first two live-action TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies. For his debut as a filmmaker, he has undertaken an intriguing project, an omnibus movie of forty-two short films. In making the film, Langen set out two criteria that make the DOGME 95 movie makers look like amateurs: all the shorts had to be shot at a single location and everything had to be done by one person. Langen's film, 42 STORY HOUSE, eschews the typical laundry list of credits (no executive producers, producers or associate producers to haggle over whose name gets listed first). Instead, there are two option to watch the film: from the beginning straight through, or via the scene selection wherein the viewer can dip in and watch what strikes his/her fancy.
Now the $64,000 question is: Is the movie any good? The short answer is "Yes." Clearly a man who has amassed the credits and awards that Langen has is no slouch when it comes to creating funny situations. Are all forty-two short films masterpieces? Well, no. But then we don't expect a baseball player to hit home runs every time at bat. I mean, ideally we might hope he does, but we'll settle for the triple or the single or even a walk. Heck, we'll allow for an occasional strikeout as well.
As I've written in many other reviews of comedy films, humor is very personal. What strikes me as funny may not appeal to you the reader, and vice versa. I can vividly recall back in college when I was sent to review an independent comedy and I that I was the only person in the theater laughing. Two older women who were seated behind me snottily said "well, at least someone is enjoying this." People often get into heated debates over the merits of Charlie Chaplin versus Buster Keaton. Judging by box-office returns, there are millions who find Adam Sandler's early comedies quite amusing. (You couldn't pay me enough to sit through them.) Anyway, I think I've made the point.
42 STORY HOUSE is a remarkable achievement simply because it is a one-man show. Langen shows great promise as a film director with several of the shorts. The visuals are well crafted and while the film is clearly on the low-budget scale, it doesn't have a cheesy feel. Even if a gag doesn't quite land as gracefully as it might, along comes another that does. A lot of the humor is visual and in some cases quite clever. On occasion, some jokes are milked a bit too much, especially when they are recurring ones, but overall, the film is definitely worth a look.
If really pressed, I would have to cite a several of the shorts as among the ones I enjoyed. Two of them are recurring ones: one in which a man eats his breakfast ("A Foreign Breakfast," which pays homage to Ingmar Bergman, "A Sci-Fi Breakfast," and "An Adult Breakfast") and the other of a man stepping outside with a newspaper and experiencing various days ("A Good Day," "A Bad Day," "An Ironic Day," for example). "Egg-icide" is also quite funny as so is "While You Were Snacking."
Unfortunately, 42 STORY HOUSE probably won't be playing at your local multiplex, but you can purchase a copy at Todd W. Langen's website www.42storyhouse.com.