“Life isn’t about staying young.”
This line poignantly summarizes the short film Smashing Pumpkins and the central theme at the core of the comedy universe in which it belongs. It’s kindred with films like Clerks II and Knocked Up — portraits of man-children facing the future and grappling with growing pains.
The film revolves around Dave (Ken Garr) and Adam (Michael Malone), two thirtysomethings who reunite every Halloween to relive their high-school glory days of smoking weed and smashing pumpkins. We meet them at a point when Dave is starting to settle down, chatting with Adam in more hushed tones so as not to disturb his newborn baby.
Adam desperately gulps the fading fumes of his youth while Dave calmly breathes the air of adulthood.
“When you were in your 20s, and you didn’t want to go to a party, you still went. Now, I just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and stay home,” Dave explains with a sigh of relief.
Adam hides his fear of adulthood behind crude jokes and constant trips down memory lane. Garr and Malone make us squirm and sympathize as their characters dig beneath the film’s breezy surface and tackle life’s tough questions about growing older.
Written and directed by Malone, Smashing Pumpkins smacks of Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow’s best work. It affectionately pokes fun at immature guys, but it also earnestly prods them to escape arrested development.
Although it’s set in Los Angeles, the film has a certain Midwestern charm. Like Malone’s directorial debut, Bethlehem, it radiates with the warmth of Midwestern comedies in the vein of Roseanne and John Hughes films. You can picture the characters being part of the “Brat Pack” back in the day.
Malone cut his comedic teeth as a teenager in comedy clubs across Indiana. Smashing Pumpkins shows how he’s maturing into a sharp comedian and a compelling filmmaker. Keep an eye on this guy. He has movie magic up his sleeve.