Oh Boy!

Director Orlow Seunke's stylized satire, Oh Boy! aims at being a cross between a Buster Keaton silent comedy and Francois Truffaut's parody of moviemaking, Day for Night. Unfortunately, neither the movie-within-movie nor the behind-the-scenes story in this Dutch offering is very funny, let alone original. Prospects for theatrical release of what is essentially one prolonged absurdist joke are dim, though it may be more appreciated in the fest circuit.

Scripter-helmer Seunke stars in the dual role of Pim, an actor who bears physical resemblance to silent clown Buster Keaton, and Boy, star of the movie-within-movie, who runs a dilapidated gas station in the middle of nowhere. The satire gets off to a good start when depicting the rivalry between Bozz, the idealized “Texaco Man” who builds a modern state-of-the-art gas station next door. Of course, the absurdity of the situation is that there is hardly enough business for one station, and a rivalry between the two owners begins. The romantic Boy soon falls in love with Gal, Bozz's daughter, and is subjected to humiliating physical routines by her ill-humored father and her wicked brother Sonny.

The action alternates between watching the movie about the one-upmanship between the two competitors and routine on-the-set problems. The rivalry between the male leads predictably extends onto the set, blurring the fine line that distinguishes reality onscreen and off.

The gllery of stock characters consists of the “usual suspects”: a beautiful actress for whom both men show amorous intentions; a temperamental, egotistical star who constantly fights with the director and cast; a stingy producer mostly concerned with the budget, schedule, and happy ending, etc.

Seunke acquits himself better as an actor than as writer or director. Wearing a makeup that approximates Keaton's famous stone face, he effectively essays the clown's dynamic movement and graceful acrobatics. Seunke also treats the viewers with the same obstacles that always imperiled Keaton's character as he was seeking love. However, as helmer, Seunke's orchestration of sight and sound gags is rigid and belabored; the effort is so excessive that by the time the pranks are performed they are not very amusing. And it doesn't help that the quality of the slapstick is uneven.

Oh Boy! boasts an attractive, consciously artificial, look. Art director Willem Klewais and production designer Rikke Jelier have whimsically copied the cluttered chaos that usually dominated Keaton's sets, using similar mechanical gadgetry: model trains serving food, oddly shaped and colored automobiles, collapsing structures, etc.