By Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel
The South Florida that doesn’t turn up on the postcards is very much the star of Hollywood, Fla., native Brian Hecker’s prom-night romance Bart Got a Room. It’s a land of bungalows, bar mitzvahs and ”early bird specials,” and an unusual place for a nice Jewish boy like Danny Stein to obsess over whom to ask to the prom.
There’s Camille (Alia Shawkat), his lifelong friend, the smart girl this smart boy (Steven Kaplan) shares the daily announcements with at high school.
But she’s not good enough. Because that one night, Danny’s lumpy, rich classmate Craig (Brandon Hardesty) explains, it’s all about the memories. And the memories are based on ”the picture.” The hotter the date, the better she will photograph. And you know things could turn carnal, because ”everybody’s getting a room at the Embassy Suites” for afterward.
Everybody? Even the homeliest kid in school got a room.
Bart got a room. It’s a title and a punch line. Even the grown-ups know what it means. To not get a room when even ”Bart got a room?” — the ultimate humiliation.
Maybe not Danny. His parents are working-class and divorced. Mom (Cheryl Hines) is practical to the point of remarrying (Jon Polito) just for security. Dad (William H. Macy at his dopiest) is the dreamer, the one driving the 25-year-old Mercedes, living in a ”beachside bungalow” (a dump), trying to date again, trying to give his son a memorable prom night, trying to give good advice and be somebody Danny can count on.
Meanwhile, Camille’s mom (Dinah Manoff) is counting on Danny. And he’s going through every pretty face he can think of — the flirtatious sophomore cheerleader, the Asian-American student who can’t let her parents know, various set-ups.
And poor Camille suffers.
Writer-director Hecker has re-processed the Patrick Dempsey comedies of the ’80s, back when he was a curly-haired dreamboat dwelling just outside the Brat Pack. Hecker’s film doesn’t really surprise us or develop momentum until the third act, when the chips are down, the limo’s been booked and the tux is on. The sweet, dizzy finale makes up for all the predictability before it.
And Macy, paired up with Jennifer Tilly in one scene, Hines in others, delivers his reliable blend of laughs and pathos, first scene to last. He gives Danny’s dad the face of shame, the last one to get the punch line but the one who understands what that slice of prom night really means when he does.
Cast: Steven Kaplan, William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines, Alia Shawkat.
Director-writer: Brian Hecker
Producers: Anne Carey, Ted Hope, Sidney Kimmel.
Anchor Bay Entertainment. 79 minutes. PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and brief strong language. Playing at AMC Aventura 24 and AMC Sunset Place 24.