Your tolerance for The Rumperbutts probably depends on whether you like Mates of State, the indie duo that wrote the soundtrack and stars as the beleaguered band forced to reckon with their lives after selling out to become wacky children’s stage characters. I’d not heard of them before starting the film; at the first musical number, I thought, “This is pretty great,” and honestly paused to familiarize myself before continuing. The band’s heydey was during the 2000s, and their last full album release was about 10 years ago. Although they still tour, this film’s soundtrack was their last major album. It’s great! They’re great! For the most part, the film becomes a series of framing sketches between musical numbers, during which the band really kills it. If you’re into their music, you’ll enjoy this.
Still, the movie? Jack (Josh Hammel) and Bonnie (Kori Gardner) are introduced dancing in costume for a crowd of screaming kids. Their outfits are big, furry and bear-like, with giant butts that they shake during the show. It’s quickly established they’re married but estranged. Unlike the real musicians playing them, Jack and Bonnie aren’t especially happy with one another. They’ve each picked up new flames to keep themselves busy while on the road. Jack has hooked up with one of their supporting actresses, Ashlee (Vanessa Ray), whose gorgeous visage hides a pretty ugly interior. Bonnie has started sleeping with their insufferable manager, Gavin (Arian Moayed).
Neither of them is living the lives for which they’d hoped … until Richie (Josh Brener) shows up to shock them out of their funk. He’s a magical, impish kinda guy. A genie? Maybe. The Rumperbutts was released in 2015, around the time Brner was playing Big Head on HBO’s Silicon Valley, and he has a similar energy here. He gives them a tour through their lives. Each stage of their relationship — When They Met, When They Fell in Love, When They Fought, etc. — is basically a music video. He also releases them from their three-year Rumperbutt contract, allowing them to fall back in love and face a future where they can choose their own paths. Those big choices, too, are accompanied by music by the band.
Again: If you don’t really dig Mates of State, there may not be much to love here. Gardner and Hammel are fine in their roles, amateur in their acting but charming as performers. Those allergic to indie acting best not expect much of them. The script by Marc Brener (Josh’s brother, who also directed) was reportedly written before bringing Mates of State onto the project. It’s hard to say whether it would land as well without the two, who coast through the story on their real-life chemistry. They’re here, though, and they get the job done.
I do dig Mates of State now that I’ve heard them for the first time. The Rumperbutts is a good introduction to a band with bits of comedy to keep the plot moving alongside lovable performances and good vibes.