If one buys into director Ramaa Mosley’s dark and off-kilter lightweight comedy ‘The Brass Teapot’ then you are under the belief system that wacky mysticism, monetary struggles and underlying marital disillusionment are an ideal recipe for a flighty fable about how a magical teapot can manufacture dollar-making dreams in a recession-induced world. Well, the premise is certainly high-spirited and quite telling in these cynical economic times. However, the sugary supernatural ‘The Brass Teapot’ gimmick feels concentrated in its heavy-handed high concept of hocus pocus than the actual selling of a solid story pertaining to the off-the-cuff, penny-pinching hard knocks.
Mosley and screenwriter Tim Macy toil to present a carefree and whimsical narrative that yearns to be a shrewd morality play on the skeptical theme of fiscal frustrations that dominate our modern-day psyche. Although at times wickedly impish while showcasing the charming antics of leads Michael Angarano and Juno Tempo as the youthful money-strapped married couple, ‘The Brass Teapot’ opts to limp along in the second half of the film resulting in tedious and trivial lapses in the meandering off-beat material. After a while, the fairy tale sketchiness of the pithy proceedings wears thin. Inevitably, this is where ‘The Brass Teapot’ starts to show its creative rustiness.
In trying to make ends meet financially, newlyweds John and Alice (Angarano and Tempo) wallow in a malaise of uncertainty. Sure, the love and affection is there to cement their marital commitment but the hopelessness of job security and worrying over hanging on to the meager belongings they barely possess is a constant and overwhelming problem. John (recently laid off as a telemarketer) and Alice (a recent college grad with lofty expectations in seeking out ambitious employment opportunities) try to maintain a sweet, positive disposition despite their dire circumstances. Underneath the friendly façade, the tandem is understandably embarrassed about their situational stagnation.
Particularly stressful for John and Alice are witnessing how their former high school classmates have successfully fared, especially the snobby Payton (Alexis Bledel) whose stroke of luck resulted in her marrying a rich husband. Clearly, the financial strain has put a damper on the couple where they feel they cannot hang out with their cash-secure colleagues. Again, the emphasis is that despite the doldrums of their weary wallets they are happy regardless of their dollars-and-cents disenchantment.
Soon, a car accident occurrence leaves John and Alice stranded in front of an antique shop. Alice decides to instinctively visit the venue where upon she confronts an eccentric odd-looking gray-haired old woman whom she eventually bypasses. Before she realises it, Alice somehow has stolen a Star of David-marked brass teapot and returns to the car without any ounce of rhyme or reason as to why she lifted the treasured trinket in the first place.
Alice discovers that the teapot has magical powers in producing hundred dollar bills at a given time when she hurts herself. So the infliction of pain continuously spouts out currency at an acceptable pace from the mystical teapot. Thus, Alice and John find inventive ways to injure themselves in order to keep their newfound fortune rolling in.
It turns out that the juiced-up Judaic relic has had a colorful history attached to it. A dangerous revelation that will come with dire consequences to the current owners that are benefiting from its ATM-giving generosities. Not before long, the ominous appearance of a pair of gun-toting Hasidic Jews will figure into the mix to snatch the trance-enhancing teapot from John and Alice. If it means conducting harm towards the benefactors of this crafty kettle then fine…the aggressors need to do what they have to do. For Alice and John, the teapot was exactly what the doctor ordered for their money-related woes but they really have no idea how corruptible and unpredictable this seemingly wondrous possession really is at heart.
As breezily upbeat that ‘The Brass Teapot’ tries to convey in its kooky consciousness, this far-fetched fable looses its zip as it bogs itself down in self-righteous mumbo-jumbo mythology and samplings of baseless jokes that carry no steady weight. ‘Teapot’s thriving quirkiness diminishes as the movie lumbers on aimlessly in bubbly banality. The message about wanting what you wish for only to regret it later was inherently realised until the movie veered off course into intermittent outlandishness.
The perky pairing of Angarano and Temple is one of the movie’s strongest elements but the affable performers cannot redeem the spell-binding sludge that engulfs their on-screen efforts. The supporting roles are merely ushered in as an afterthought. Bobby Moynihan (from TV’s ‘Saturday Night Live’), Alia Shawkat (from TV’s ‘Arrested Development’), Billy Magnussen, Steve Park (playing the teapot skeptic that would like to shield the world from the unassuming antique) and Bledel (former teen star from TV’s ‘The Gilmore Girls’) all seem to take a backseat to the trickster teapot.
Given its magical mediocrity, ‘The Brass Teapot’ could have brewed its lukewarm water of wit and whimsy much hotter than it was in surrealist execution.
The Brass Teapot (2013)
1 hr. 41 mins.
Starring: Michael Angarano, Juno Tempo, Alexis Bledel, Bobby Moynihan, Alia Shawkat, Billy Magnussen, Jack McBrayer, Steve Park, Ben Rappaport and Lucy Walters
Directed by: Ramaa Mosley
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Comedy/Fantasy/Supernatural
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars).