Brass Teapot, The (2013)
Release Date: April 6th, 2013 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ramaa Mosley Actors: Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Billy Magnussen, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan, Lucy Walters, Jack McBrayer
n the small town of Laurel Springs, where everyone seems to know everyone else, John Macy (Michael Angarano) wiles away his days at a television warranty sales company. It’s the kind of job that causes him to be stashed away in a tiny cubicle, constantly on the phone, and frequently berated by his stern boss. John’s wife Alice (Juno Temple) is less fortunate on the career front – she’s considering plenty of opportunities, but simply doesn’t have the appropriate background or skills for any of them (her $40,000 degree in art history only keeps the couple in debt). They’re flat broke, but at least they have each other.
When the lovers are involved in a car accident, the slightly dazed Alice finds herself wandering into a nearby antiques shop while John deals with the police. Once inside, she’s mysteriously drawn to a brass teapot that the elderly owner attempts to conceal. Without any money, but with a strong desire to have the pot, she swipes it and flees the scene as fast as John can get the car started. The following morning, Alice accidentally burns herself with a curling iron and discovers that the teapot is full of cash. Bumping into a table similarly causes the glowing device to spit out $100 bills (how fortunate that it’s U.S. currency). Within short time, she’s punching her fist through the cupboard and lightly hurting herself to gain moderate riches. That night, John comes home to a bruised and beaten Alice, who couldn’t be more thrilled to have sustained such injuries – and one who is anxious to knee her husband in the groin to demonstrate the powers of the teapot.
Every character in the film is painfully generic, which doesn’t help the romantic-comedy vibe as much as merely making the production seem as if it is trying futilely to be funny. John is clumsy, Alice is ditzy, and their landlord Arnie (Billy Magnussen) is a bullying jock quick to remind the couple of their failures, especially since Alice was voted “most likely to succeed” in high school. Best friends Louise (Alia Shawkat) and Chuck (Bobby Moynihan) are in a comparable financial situation, working multiple jobs to make ends meet – but find their own happiness despite demeaning labors. Payton (Alexis Bledel) is a rich neighbor and one of the conceited, successful girls they all went to school with (a la “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”), who lives in the luxurious mansion adjacent to the one John and Alice eventually purchase. All of the jokes these dull roles create are wasted on humorless setups and plot points that make little sense. If it weren’t for the mildly amusing premise, “The Brass Teapot” would have absolutely no redeemable factors.
“It could end badly. Very badly,” insists John, with another line featuring dumbfounding, commonplace delivery. While the two make a pact to stop hurting themselves at the one million dollar mark, they still subject themselves to a Brazilian wax, tattoos, dental work without anesthesia, and some semi-painful sexual fetishes (among plenty of other atrocities), before realizing that the limits of their greed just might be boundless. In the only clever twist, they also become aware of the teapot’s steadily changing generosity. The film tries to examine greed and consequences, the price of cruelty, unfulfilled dreams and failures, and restraint. Instead, it really only emphasizes that money can’t buy happiness if you’re stupid. In one of the most obnoxious scenes, John and Alice debate over which one will be excused from an expensive dinner (one of many unconvincing examples of newfound gormandizing) to batter him or herself in the restroom to settle the lofty bill – which will make audiences wonder why they didn’t come prepared. Throughout the entire film, several moments beg that same question, especially when they discuss between themselves their unpreparedness, and then proceed into risky situations without any semblance of a plan. Quite peculiarly, both Alice and John spend nearly 50% of the movie in various states of undress, with underwear being their customary wardrobe.
– Mike Massie