Down and Out with the Dolls (DVD)

This DVD should come with torn-up fishnet stockings.

Kali (Nicole Barrett), Reggie (Kinnie Starr), and Lavender (Melody Moore) all have dreams of punk rock stardom. When they learn Fauna (Zoe Poledouris, daughter of composer Basil Poledouris), the hottest singer in town, has just left her band, they see an opportunity. The four ladies form The Paper Dolls, going so far as to move in with each other in their own house, rechristened the “Doll House.” After enjoying some success, and with a big record contract right around the corner, the group throws a wild, three-day party. During this time, jealousies will rear their ugly heads, romantic rivalries will escalate, and someone will get bashed in the face with a trashcan lid. But this is what life is like when you’re Down and Out With the Dolls.

Talk about retro: Put Down and Out With the Dolls in your DVD player, and suddenly you’re back in the days of VHS. There’s no menu. The movie just starts. Press the menu button on your remote all you want—nothing will happen. There are also no chapter stops, and you can forget about things like subtitles or alternate audio tracks.

Shot on what appears to be low-budget video, the picture quality is quite poor—often grainy, hazy, and with washed-out colors. The audio doesn’t fare much better. Don’t be surprised if you can’t make out what the actors are saying, even if you have the volume cranked up high.

“But what does it matter?” you might ask. “This is a punk rock movie. It’s about rebellion. It’s not meant to be a part of the glossy Hollywood system. It’s raw. It’s ‘indie.’ And the gritty, low-budget feel only adds to its attitude.”

You raise a very good point there, except that any angry rebellion that appears in the movie is quickly devoured by a bland and predictable script. A group of friends form a band, start to taste some success, and than implode due to petty jealousies and rivalries. It’s the same sort of story that we’ve seen in dozens of other rock ‘n’ roll movies. If you’re hoping for punks raging against society, you’re out of luck. If you want a movie about the power of rock music and how it can change people, you won’t get it here. What you will get are standard soap opera plotlines about love triangles and romantic betrayals, peppered with teen comedy fluff about the stupid things people do when they’re drunk and horny. Sadly, the romances are not compelling, and the comedy just isn’t that funny.

The acting doesn’t help. Our four lead actresses might be jaw-droppingly sexy, but their performances are lacking. As the bad girl of the bunch, Zoe Poledouris has the femme fatale look and the icy stare down pat, but she never quite reaches the level of bitchiness the story calls for. A little better is Nicole Barrett as Kali, the lovesick member of the group, who longs to woo the man of her dreams through her music. Kinnie Starr wanders through her role as Reggie such that we’re never sure where her character is coming from. Is she unaware she’s breaking the hearts of those who care about her, or is she just cruel? And as Lavender, Melody Moore isn’t given much to do except be our narrator. But bass players almost never get the spotlight, do they?

Although the Paper Dolls only perform twice in the film, they are pretty good. Keep in mind there’s a reason I’m a DVD critic and not a music critic, but the soundtrack here is a good one, and the disc’s otherwise poor audio improves slightly. Perhaps the film would have improved had the ladies kept to singing instead of acting.

At one point, Lemmy Kilmister, a.k.a. “Lemmy from Motörhead,” shows up in a small role, and it’s the most entertaining part of the movie. That’s just sad.

The Verdict

The Paper Dolls exist outside the law, and are therefore free to keep on rocking and rolling. Their movie, however, is found guilty on all charges.

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