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    Happy camp-ers

    "Pop" is what happens when you get together your most urbane, kitsch-loving, samba-swinging buddies, a 1950s Thunderbird and a movie camera and make a shoestring "Thin Man" for the '90s.


    Two with-it young physicists are being chased by a sinister exec and her pair of goons, as well as a matched set of small-eyed G-men in black, all in pursuit of a math-nerd who's made off with a mysterious high-tech secret and vanished with his new girlfriend from space. The word "caper," you'll agree, was invented for just this situation.

    Written and directed by: Brian Johnson.
    Cast: Elisa Donovan, Peter Paige, Michael Fetters, Kurt McKinney, Jed Shay, Mark Tassoni, Michael Lucas, Lisa Brink, Johnny Useldinger, Kate Ertmann.

    Related links: Official site
    You can guess where the idea for "Pop" came from — a bunch of young actor buddies were hanging out at a coffee shop imitating Noel Coward and regaling each other with bons mots and witticisms, when somebody said, "Hey, this is great stuff! We should be writing it down and putting it into our screenplay!" And you know what? It worked out pretty well.

    Our sleuths are Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Loy), a pair of "physicists" who show no signs of knowing anything about physics ("It's more of a hobby," says one) but do enjoy driving about town in a 1950s T-bird and tossing off snappy little lines of dialogue like:

    "Holy doppelganger!"
    "I can't run anymore. Can we just . . . how 'bout we have a car chase."
    "No time, kitty cat. Let's boogie!"

    Nick and Nora (excuse me, that's Peter Paige and Elisa Donovan) are on a desperate search for their friend Hugo (Michael Fetters), because he has the enigmatic "Fat-Boy Numeral," which is — well, never mind what it is. Suffice it to say, everybody's on Hugo's track — "like flies on rice," as one character puts it. The rest is style, as the plot takes our characters through numerous kitschily decorated locations if only for the purpose of dancing to samba and lounge music there.

    The script of this light jaunt has its flat spots and some incomprehensible in-lingo, and the characters occasionally seem to stall for time or lapse into narration, telling you things you can see for yourself. But you're swept merrily along as the actors gamely plow ahead to the next zinger, no harm done.

    There was just one especially disturbing thing about "Pop." If you're like me (and I mean exactly like me), you'll start to recognize this cast as exactly the kind of sooo-urbane theater types you hung out with in coffee shops during high school and college, and then you'll gradually realize that the entire film is shot in your own hometown. And then it will occur to you . . . these people are probably wearing the same thrift-store two-tone Cardigans and skinny ties that your hip friends wore one generation earlier. Not the same styles — the same exact clothes. As these characters would exclaim: Sweet fancy Moses!

    OCTOBER 6, 1999

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