Zed's not dead, baby. Zed's not dead.

Twenty years ago Bobcat Goldthwait went international as Zed, the crazy-voiced leader of that graffiti punk gang in Police Academy 2. Since then he's multi-tasked around the edges of the mainstream, generally doing stand up, TV and cartoon voice work. Now Sleeping Dogs Lie is his first independent movie as writer and director since 1992's Shakes the Clown. It's a welcome return as he's delivered one of the best indies of the year.

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The big talking point is the film's opening scene and basic premise. Melinda Page Hamilton's teenager Amy is home alone, bored and a bit curious. So a little sexual indiscretion passes the time. It's pretty darn disgusting, but don't be fooled. This isn't some base American Pie or Freddie Got Fingered scatological gross-out effort. What follows is actually an intelligent, frank and genuinely sincere offbeat comedy that belies its budget roots and affirms Goldthwait's talents.

Years later, Amy is settled into a peachy life. She's the apple of her parents' eyes, has a good job as a teacher and is engaged to her beau, John (Bryce Johnson). Then, in a believably romantic moment, John suggests they share completely with each other, reveal some secrets that they've never told anyone else before. After a lot of pressure and some well-intentioned advice from friends, Amy finally reveals her "fido moment". Of course, it goes down worse than a Pedigree Chum sandwich and her neat world starts to unravel around her.

Goldthwait's clever script uses Amy's wholly unbelievable act to explore the very believable tribulations of relationships. Honesty, forgiveness and trust are adroitly woven into the Amy's story, as are issues of insecurity, opening up or keeping your mouth shut and hearing and seeing what you choose to. The themes are all explored with credibility, universal familiarity and, dare I say it, heart, to make an authentically funny and moving film. The great coup is that Amy's indiscretion is so comically heinous that it provides a relief against which the thematic relationship issues can seem much more realistic whilst never feeling preachy.

Both Hamilton (Desperate Housewives) and Johnson (ahem, Bring It On Again) turn in great performances, conveying their shame, disgust and difficulties with admirable restraint. There's excellent if less layered support from Amy's family too. Geoffrey Pierson is a hoot as her man's man father and Bonita Friedericy plays her innocently secretive mother just as well. Jack Plotnick is their acrid disappointment of a son and there's some quality low-key stoner clowning from his mate, Randy (Brian Posehn). The only drawback in the ensemble is Ed (Colby French), Amy's loyal friend and work colleague. He's basically there to just be nice.

Goldthwait uses his low-budget constraints to make a virtue of his mini digital cameras, giving the film a realistic, domestic feel that complements the believable emotions his characters experience. The real power lies in his singularly creative script which, from a warped premise, fashions a mature and entertaining film of intelligent perspective and genuine affection.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2006
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An offbeat indie comedy about love, lies and your pets.
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Chris ****

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait

Starring: Melinda Page Hamilton, Bryce Johnson, Geoffrey Pierson, Colby French, Jack Plotnick, Brian Posehn

Year: 2006

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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