SXSW Film Reviews

THE MESMERIST

Narrative Feature Special Screenings, World Premiere

D: Gil Cates Jr.; with Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Capshaw, Jason Carter. Edgar Allen Poe has never been known for the element of farce in his short tales, but director Gil Cates Jr. is out to change all that. Endearingly broad, Cates plays the brooding Baltimore scribe's "The Facts in the Cast of M. Valdemar" for laughs, and the result is far less treacherous that you might imagine. Of course, it helps to have Doogie Howser's Harris on board, and between the bosomy, blond Capshaw and him (as old man Valdemar's daughter and his prospective son-in-law, respectively), the net effect falls somewhere between screwball comedics and outright Mad-magazine-style parody. Some may argue that it's sacrilege to tamper with the sacred work of King Goth, but Cates Jr. manages to pull it off, thanks in no small part to some terrific set design and gags so broad even Mel Brooks would run shrieking. Not every joke hits the mark, but there are enough clever throwaway lines to take the current National Lampoon yawn-fest off your mind. (3/15, MYEC, 9:45pm)

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