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STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RATED: PG (mild thematic elements and language)
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
• 10 downloadable cupcake recipes from allrecipes.com
First she made cupcakes, now she’s mayor. Oh snap!
Starring Lea Thompson, Judd Nelson, Frankie Faison, Dorian Harewood, cameos from Greta Van Sustren and Gavin DeGraw
Written by Art D’Alessandro & Alex Pires
Directed by Alex Pires
Lea Thompson is a cupcake baker in sleepy Bridgeville, Delaware. Her daughter enters her in the town’s mayoral race as a joke, and she doesn’t win, but before the state can certify the results, the incumbent mayor dies, and before you can say ‘backdoor sitcom pilot’ she finds herself juggling the demands of work, family, town, and marriage to creepy mustachioed Judd Nelson.
I picked this movie because of the wacky title without knowing anything about it. You are correct in detecting a strong ‘movie to watch with grandma’ type vibe from this picture, but it has a pronounced stripe of weirdness. Quick example: Judd Nelson goes to watch his daughter’s crappy band perform and they play the ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ song in front of Judd Nelson, who has been completely forgotten. Okay, maybe that’s not weird enough for you. How about this: the incompetent (and obese) mayor celebrates his re-election with a cupcake but when he starts choking, his hysterical (and obese) daughter punches and headbutts him to death. Maybe this movie takes place in a weird-alternate dimension.
Is Delaware a real place? Or is it one of those oft re-used fictional locations like Atlantis? Imagine my surprise to discover that not only is Delaware a real state, but the city from this movie, Bridgeville (incorrectly referred to as Bridgestone on the DVD back cover) is also a real city with about 2000 residents. But they can’t even get 200 people to vote for Mayor? Get the fuck out of here. I guess that explains why the voting scenes didn’t have any extras, and why the town only has one lawyer, played by workhorse character actor and The Wire and Hannibal franchise alum Frankie Faison, who classes up his banal scenes with that trademark twinkle in his eye.
While I watched this, I kept asking myself, who is this for? I don’t think it’s for kids. What kid wants to watch a movie about a mom who becomes mayor? That sounds boring at best and terrifying at worst, at least for a kid. And this is a nagging mother. She complains about kids leaving the lights on. Oh, except she does it to them WHILE THEY ARE STILL IN THE ROOM. I thought the old stereotype was that parents got frustrated when kids would leave lights on after they had left rooms, but no, not on Lea Thompson’s watch. She comes into her daughter’s room and turns off the lights while her daughter sits in bed reading. “Get a candle, bitch, welcome to life in the cupcake junta!” Would she complain about her husband leaving the toilets seat up whilst he was still urinating? Would she lower the seat mid-stream and storm off in a huff?
I have to give the movie credit for defying conventionality and predictability in a few areas. The cover of the DVD suggests the campaign will be a component of the plot, but it doesn’t really come up at all. In fact, the daughters don’t really have much to do with the plot and I wondered why there were even included until I figured out they were Lea Thompson’s real life daughters. Well that clears that up. Since she became famous for a movie about time-travel pseudo-incest (and appeared in the only woman-on-duck romance picture I’m aware of) it’s nice to now she’s more down to earth in real life.
Another unexpected development is the government of this small town. I expected cartoonish ridiculousness, but it was actually more like Bell, CA (look it up). A few evil bureaucrats have bled the town dry and now Mayor Cupcake has to make tough, belt-tightening decisions that don’t go over well with everybody, like turning off every other street light at night, cutting high school football funding, and replacing police squad cars with bicycles. I was expecting some sort of bullshit magic fundraising bake sale or something, but this movie actually presented reasonable arguments for financial austerity in this times of financial crisis. Not sure how I feel about cancelling garbage pick up though. That town will smell pretty damn ripe in the summer.
Don’t worry though, cliches still abound in this story. Somebody surreptitiously records one of the villains delivering a “look how fucking evil I am bitches” speech and shames them in a public hearing. Lea Thompson consults a Magical Negro (look it up) who sits on a porch all day reading books. The small town atmosphere always feels artificial and overcooked. Judd Nelson tells Lea Thompson that the old fat Mayor won re-election with ‘”something like 83%” and that she got “32 votes” with the only other candidate receiving a sole vote from himself. I don’t want to make anybody do any algebra, but my phone has a calculator, and it tells me that the old fat mayor got about 161 votes. Not even 200 votes? Do these people just not fucking vote?
It takes Judd Nelson so damn long to finally have a line in this movie. He’s silent in his first few scenes, including a family dinner with several reaction shots of just him, and when he finally does speak in his third or fourth scene, his first line is delivered off camera. Man, is he weird. Instead of counting out loud when he gets frustrated in order to pass time and cool down, he rattles off the presidents names in order, which does not help with his character’s unintentional creepy factor. Seeing a small town copper with a pedostache skulking around muttering “Washington, Adams, Jefferson…” to himself fells like a different film entirely. His character and performance are unfortunately an unwelcome distraction from a movie that is desperate for diversions. Even his creepy face on the back cover of the DVD is almost enough to make you not want to watch the movie.
Lea Thompson is still a good actress, so it’s a shame that she ends up in things like this. Her character is much less annoying than you might expect. She doesn’t mug for the camera or go crazy with a flat line to inject comedy/drama where it doesn’t exist. She never really sounds sanctimonious or self-righteous during any of her stupid little speeches, which is quite frankly a miracle now I think about it more. You can take a fine measure of her character from an appraisal by a villain of why she might be a legitimate threat: “She doesn’t bitch or moan or gossip like most women.” Wow, she does sound dangerous.
You can watch the movie. You can watch the trailer. I couldn’t figure out how to access the downloadable recipes, but allrecipes.com returns 3,888 results for ‘cupcake’ so I don’t think anybody that wants to bake cupcakes will be in any danger of failing for lack of a recipe. In fact, just use the one on the back of the box; who are you trying to impress?
Out of a Possible 5 Stars