Illegal Use of Joe Zopp
Narrative, 90 min
Directed by Sarah Rykal
Landlocked: Saturday, August 23, 9:30pm
Filmmakers constrained by a cheaper-than-dirt budget often turn to horror or shoot-em-up action for their first movie foray. In these dark and gritty cinemascapes, the limits of DIY filmmaking can actually enhance a film instead of hinder it. Much more ambitious is to plan a comedy, where the contrast with Hollywood’s bright colors and big-budgets become apparent. The Illegal Use of Joe Zopp—from Chippewa Falls, WI based Wut Wut Alma films—takes this challenge head on.
Given the financial hurdles of a month-long shoot for less than the price of a used car, the film holds up remarkably well. The sets are detailed, the screenwriting clever and a few well-delivered performances remind filmgoers of a lower rent There’s Something About Mary (yes, that is possible). Save for a few underlit nighttime scenes, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a six-figure film.
In the end, however, a movie is only as good as its storytellers, and Joe Zopp‘s writers find enough wild antics and witty dialogue to entertain. The title character is a hometown outcast—a Homer Simpsonesque bonk to the noggin has given him uncommon intelligence for this sleepy Wisconsin village. Eventually, Zopp grows tired of trying to make it in this simple town. Riding the rails, he heads for Ohio, setting in motion the movie’s unlikely series of misadventures. The screwball plot is goofy and wise but at times completely nonsensical, though even if you get lost it’s easy enough to enjoy the pure absurdity of it all.
Low-budget indies are getting easier to make, for sure, but as access reaches the masses it becomes harder to find the gems in the rough. Joe Zopp may not be the Hope diamond, but it’s cubic zirconia for sure—and proud of it.