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Dave Barry turns Movie Star at Santa Barbara

Dave Barry Turns Movie Star at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has always been a bit adventurous with its selection of films. Along with the requisite slate of solid international and American independent features, the festival does a great job supporting local films and filmmakers.

This year, midway through the 20th edition, more than two thousand people packed the Arlington Theatre for the Centerpiece screening and World Premiere of “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys,” a fairly short movie written and directed by Santa Barbara resident Jeff Arch, the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of “Sleepless in Seattle.” David Shor and Labrador Pictures, a Santa Barbara-based company, produced.

Arch based his screenplay on the fairly short book of the same name by Dave Barry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist for the Miami Herald. Barry, whose syndicated column appears in more 700 newspapers, also turns movie star playing “The Guide,” essentially himself, with trademark Hawaiian shirt, bad haircut, and all.

Anyone familiar with Barry’s 25 or so books knows that you can jump in anywhere and find something to laugh about. Barry is a keen observer and superb chronicler of the human condition, albeit from the comic’s eye. By casting Barry as himself, the audience can see firsthand the kind of goofy persona that affects his writing and makes it such a joy to read.

Arch’s screenplay maintains a close relationship to the book, which is really a series of short chapters attempting to explain stereotypical male behavior, that is, “guy behavior,” throughout the ages.

The film, shot on digital video and set in Miami, revolves around Roger, the “Ultimate Guy,” played by comedy vet Lochlyn Munro. Munro’s toothy grins and vacuous stares are perfect foils for Elaine (Christina Moore) as we follow them from courtship to home ownership. A couple, Gene and Kelly, are the best friends, played by Khalil Kain and Megan Ward respectively.

In one scene that is particularly illustrative of a guy’s understanding of relationships, as they drive, Elaine tells Roger that they’ve been going together for six months. When Roger doesn’t immediately respond, Elaine imagines all sorts of relationship issues culminating with her rationalization that there is no knight, no horse. Roger, on the other hand realizes that at six months he’s way overdue for an oil change and that he’s probably screwed with the maintenance warranty as well. The next day, in a pick-up game of basketball with Gene, Roger asks if Elaine ever owned a horse. Meanwhile, Elaine and Kelly spend hours dissecting the conversation.

Arch’s storytelling relies heavily on sketch comedy. Sight gags are plentiful, as is a running gag about a favorite baseball player traded from the Marlins to the Yankees. In fact, since guys are drawn to sports like magnets, there are loads of sports related scenes including cameos by ESPN regulars Dick Vitale and Hank Goldberg. In what has to be great timing, 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Dan Marino teams up with Barry to “telestrate” protocol in the men’s room.

For a “desperate housewife” moment before there were desperate housewives, Elaine comes to terms with Roger’s inability to fix all things broken in their new home, and calls Steve, the super-suave fix-anything repairman played by the equally suave Carlos Ponce. Steve merely has to lay hands upon the afflicted appliance for it to be healed, endearing himself to all the women while the guys idly stand by.

John Cleese, another Santa Barbara resident, also stars and is over the top in Pythonesque way, playing four different medical experts who offer no real scientific explanations about guy behavior.

After the screening, Cleese joined Barry and Arch on stage for a short Q&A.

“I’m still not an actor as you can see from the movie,” said Barry. “I liked every part of it except the part where you have to go on camera and say certain words in a certain order—which turns out to be a really big deal to the director.”

Before heading off the after-party, Barry and Arch managed to dump the contents of their water bottles on each other much to the delight of the audience.

As Barry made his way through the crush of partygoers, posing for the occasional photo, the early buzz was mixed. A technical glitch in the sound system clearly bothered a lot of people as half the theater had to strain to hear and the other half had too much sound.
“The moment an audience has to sit forward, they stop laughing,” commented Cleese in the Q&A.

Santa Barbara filmgoers are among the most knowledgeable and discerning who attend film festivals. “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys” will likely find its core audience among staunch Dave Barry fans that want to catch the master himself on screen, and of course, guys, who are—guys.

by James C. Davis
photos by Ray Mickshaw

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