Sundance 2014: “Rat Pack Rat” – Review by Mark Krawczyk

Rat Pack

Rat Pack Rat

Written and Directed by: Todd Rohal
Cast: Eddie Rouse, Steve Little, Margie Beegle

The Rat Pack Rat tells the story of Dennis (Eddie Rouse) , a Sammy Davis, Jr impersonator who is hired by a woman to entertain her sick son (Steve Little, EASTBOUND AND DOWN) on his birthday.  Dennis soon finds himself giving the last performance the son will ever see.

Todd Rohal spins a tale that is unsettling both visually and emotionally.   He manages to mix humor in with grotesque imagery that causes conflicting feelings within the audience.  At times during the film, I found myself smiling one minute and in the next moment, feeling guilty for smiling.

When you are introduced to Steve Little’s  character, he is hooked up to a massive machine that is keeping him alive.  The machine is frequently used as a comedic tool while reminding you that it is vital part in this young man’s daily life. There is a particular scene that involves the consuming of a Milky Way bar that is both funny and depressing.  A defining aspect of this bedridden man’s character is his love of The Rat Pack.  It is conveyed through his frequent question,” Are you really Sammy Davis, Jr?”. This helps motivate Dennis to keep going with his visit rather than run away.

Dennis is played by Eddie Rouse who does a great job as a man conflicted. You feel his inner debate on whether the money is worth being around this ill man. It is only when Dennis is asked to perform “The Candy Man” that you feel his uneasiness disappear.  It is a very surreal and light moment in the film.

The Rat Pack Rat is definitely an unusual story that will leave the audience unsure about how they should feel towards both Dennis and the sick son. The last 3 minutes are especially awkward, and after viewing this film you will not listen to the song “The Candy Man” the same way ever again.  It is not going to be for everyone and some may even be offended, but that does not make it a bad film. On the contrary, I think this film accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, push the viewer outside of their comfort zone and question what they would do if they were Dennis.  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stubs.

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