As filmmaking sibling duos go, Mark and Michael Polish have never been heralded as titans of the independent moviemaking scene, nor have they managed to attain consistent mainstream success like the brothers Coen or Duplass. Early efforts like “Twin Falls Idaho” — in which the pair starred as conjoined twins to some acclaim — and “Northfolk” certainly have their fans, but they came unstuck with an offensively mawkish Billy Bob Thornton vehicle no-one saw (“The Astronaut Farmer”) in 2006 and it’s hardly been plain sailing since then, with pictures like “The Smell of Success” dropping off the face of the Earth into instant obscurity or ‘secret’ projects like their “Wizard of Oz” prequel being mysteriously dumped/abandoned when everyone else in Hollywood had a similar idea.
In the same vein “Stay Cool,” directed by Michael and starring Mark, has been stuck in limbo since it was shown at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, and listed by MTV as one of the 2009 films that will have you screaming “OMG!” (though, one imagines, not in the way the filmmakers were intending). Polish plays Henry McCarthy, an emotionally warped author of a book called “How Lionel Got Laid” who’s invited back to his hometown to deliver the commencement speech at his alma mater, before becoming entangled with old high school crush Scarlett Smith (Winona Ryder). The film also stars Hilary Duff as a “sexy,” forward, high-school senior called Shasta who Polish gets involved with and – lo and behold – the whole thing appears to climax at senior prom.
A new trailer, seemingly voiced by either the world’s most apathetic voiceover guy or a man with a proclivity for horse tranquilizers, has cropped up over at Movieweb, along with a ghastly, poorly put-together poster that adequately displays the bizarre concatenation of acting talent the siblings somehow have managed to cobble together (guess times were rough for Chevy Chase back then, and Josh Holloway didn’t have much on in his “Lost” hiatus). Given that “Stay Cool” has been gathering dust since around the time Windows 7 debuted, expectations are pretty much rock-bottom and this “fresh” promotional material does little to persuade the viewer otherwise, except perhaps to give more attention to what looks to be Sean Astin’s most embarrassing performance to date as a homosexual “girl” with bleached blonde hair and a “You go, girlfriend” attitude.
The plot seems insanely John Hughes derivative and coasting on the fumes of successful films that have marked out similar territory (most obviously “Grosse Point Blank”) with some predictable “emotionally-inarticulate-white-man-child-in-arrested-development’ issues thrown in for good measure. Throw a dart these days and you’ll hit any one of the high-school nostalgia movies (“Take Me Home Tonight” springs to mind) with a troubling penchant for dredging up the most bathetic and kitsch aspects of one of the most wretched decades of the twentieth century, the 1980s, and flambéing them with apparently hilarious “ironic” overtones.
While the Polish brothers seem to have moved on from the film – they’ve got “For Lovers Only” in the can, and Michael is going solo on the upcoming Jack Kerouac biopic “Big Sur” – “Stay Cool” will finally be unleashed on September 16th. Don’t all rush to the theater at once.