My husband and I once waited all night at San Diego Comic-Con to preview “Psych: The Musical.” We mourned the ending of the TV series “Psych” and now wish for reunion movies. Last night, we drove to NoHo for a late night screening of “Gravy,” James Roday’s feature film directorial and we were rewarded with plenty of laughs and a new appreciation of Roday.
Roday co-wrote “Gravy” with his writing partner Todd Harthan, partially inspired by an incident at a Mexican Restaurant (El Cholo), but it was almost a decade in the making. Although this is a soft opening at a few theaters today in Los Angeles and New York, the movie will also be available VoD on Oct. 6. The stars are an unlikely pair–Michael Weston as Anson and Jimmi Simpson as Stef. “Psych” fans will be familiar with the pair: Weston played a nervous lawyer named Adam Hornstock in 2006 and Jimmi Simpson played Dr. Marion “Mary” Lightly III, an expert on Mr. Yang.
The story is about two brothers who have peculiar tastes: Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and Anson (Michael Weston). Stef has a girlfriend, Mimi (Lily Cole), who shares his peculiar tastes. The movie begins with Anson visiting a small dairy/corner store on Halloween (a poorly disguised Altadena Dairy mart). He meets and awkwardly flirts with the clerk Bethany (Sarah Silverman), who is dressed as a fluffy, lumpy rather than sexy white rabbit. Leaving, Anson changes into a clown costume. He’s going to a party.
Stef is dressed as Robin Hood while Mimi is dressed as a sexy cat woman with ears and black unitard that eventually reveals a tail that looks more like a cat-o-nine-tails whip than that arching fluffy tail. As the windowless Mexican restaurant is about to close down for the night, Stef and Mimi are dry humping in the corner. The things get a bit crazy as the people soon realize the doors have been welded shut by a clown and the clown, Anson, Stef and Mimi are taking over and demanding something different from the menu. Perhaps it helps to know that the restaurant is called Raoul.
Yes, the movie belongs in the genre of “Eating Raoul,” but this Bad Flan Film horror parody has more snap to the witty dialogue and better production quality. Forget the psychology. In the intro, there’s a quote to set the mood that “sometimes there is no clinical explanations for why someone is bat-shirt crazy.” The craziness is that Anson and Stef have an All Hallow Eve ritual. They have a “pseudo European-style gangster slumber party.” In case you’ve never been invited to one of those, this one involves gory murders and good food and a few games such as one that acknowledges Kevin Bacon as the center of the cinematic universe. The future menu items include a hefty black woman bouncer (Gabourey Sidibe) studying for an exam, the restaurant manager Chuy (Paul Rodriguez), Chuy’s nephew who is training to be a boxer (Gabriel Luna), the chef with a secret (Lothaire Bluteau), a waitress dressed as a beauty pageant winner (Molly Ephraim) who proclaims “I don’t speak poverty” and the bartender who is working her last day before becoming a paramedic (Sutton Foster).
There will be no singing despite the inclusion of two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster who played Millie Dillmount in the 2002 revival of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Reno Sweeney in the 2011 revival of “Anything Goes.” But there will be plenty of gore. At the Q&A following the private screening, Roday told the audience he felt that while zombies and vampires have had plenty of focus in recent films, cannibals, not so much since 1986 R-rated “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” or the 1982 black comedy “Eating Raoul.” Roday recalled that he wanted to write “a good gory cannibal comedy.” For Curt Smith of Tears for Fears, this is his second time scoring a film and he commented that he “concentrated more on the comedy than the cannibalism” and he’s seen the movie about 200 times and “still finds it hilarious.”
The title, Roday claimed, was a reference to the thought that “if we ever made this movie, it would just be gravy” on top of a life that at the time included “Psych,” a TV series that “presented me with every dream opportunity I could dream of.” Psych-Os won’t be disappointed and Roday also mentioned that if there is funding, he and his writing partner already know what happens in “Gravy 2.”
“Gravy” opens today, Friday, Oct. 2 in Los Angeles and New York. In Los Angeles, “Gravy” is playing at the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood until Oct. 8. The Laemmle NoHo 7 is located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd.