1997, NR, 99 min. Directed by John Schultz. Starring Kevin Corrigan, Steve Parlavecchio, Lee Holmes, Matthew Hennessey, Doug Macmillan.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 10, 1997
“Finally… a movie about a band,” the tagline promises, and they're right, this certainly isn't a film about, say, a carwash or anything. It's band, band, band all the way down the line, from struggling musicians dealing with stage fright to the dreaded Hell-on-the-Road to scurrilous major label vampires. Band stuff, all forms of it, infuses Bandwagon with a wry, comic sensibility that makes Citizen Dick from Cameron Crowe's Singles seem downright silly. (Which it was, I know, but this is just so much better, right?) The band in question here is Circus Monkey, a newly formed Raleigh/Durham quartet of pop-rockers entering the insular world of life inside a cramped, foul-scented van. There's Tony (Holmes), the sensitive singer-songwriter whose every song seems to be about an unseen girl named Ann; Eric (Parlavecchio), the pugilistic bassist; Wynn (Corrigan), the dope-addled guitarist; and Charlie (Hennessey), the talkative drummer looking for love. All four of the guys are overseen by manager Linus Tate (MacMillan, longtime leader of indie band, the Cones), a shadowy figure who acts as a sort of street-cred barometer for the group's lofty, label-aspiring ambitions. As a comic look at a new band on the road and on the run, Schultz's debut film is a bittersweet tale. There really is an Ann, the rest of the band discovers after all, although she's not what singer Tony expected. And the upcoming Rival Records' Battle of the Bands is less a talent showcase, it turns out, than a major label whirring operation by which the vultures can pick the fat off newborn bands. Schultz and his spot-on cast pack the film with goofy band truisms: the rivalries, tantrums, and outright fisticuffs. But Bandwagon has a remarkably sweet center despite the occasional bad attitude wafting through it. Holmes is immensely likable as the frontman, so shy that he has to stand in the corner of the stage and face away from the audience to get the notes out right, and Corona (Trees Lounge,, Kicked in the Head) is every dopey, philosophical groove rider you've ever seen. Any film about a band had better have music in it, and Bandwagon scores high points for Greg Kendall's Circus Monkey tunes, especially the heartfelt “It Couldn't Be Ann.” Kendall has been well-known for years throughout the Beantown area as a hot producer and session guy, and his work here adds a dimension to the Circus Monkey story that wouldn't otherwise be there. All things considered, it's a gristly humorous debut, and one of the most on-target depictions of band life thus far.