Dir/scr: Todd Rohal. US. 2012. 79mins

Nature Calls

R-rated comedy Nature Calls offers up a decent cast - headed by comedian Patton Oswalt and Jackass impresario Johnny Knoxville - and a sweet nature but depressingly few laughs. Commercial prospects seem strictly limited for this more mainstream effort by indie writer-director Todd Rohal, best known for his quirky 2006 festival prize-winner The Guatemalan Handshake.

Oswalt brings his characteristic mix of edge and cuddliness to the proceedings but Knoxville is an uninspiring villain.

Already available in the US on VOD and set for a three-city theatrical release this week through Magnolia’s Magnet Releasing, the film, which premiered last March at SXSW, will do well to attract a small, mostly young male audience. Pickings will probably be even slimmer in the international marketplace. 

Oswalt, who stood out in last year’s Young Adult, plays Randy, a second generation Scout master struggling to preserve the scouting tradition. Knoxville (whose other big screen credits include The Dukes Of Hazzard) is Randy’s anti-Scout brother Kirk. Randy drags his reluctant troop away from a high tech sleep over at Kirk’s house to go camping and ends up being pursued through the woods by Kirk, Kirk’s sidekicks (played by The Hangover’s Rob Riggle and late comedian Patrice O’Neal) and the kids’ angry mothers.

Other characters thrown into the mix include Randy’s wheelchair bound father, his dodgy Scout master assistants, Kirk’s long-suffering wife (ER’s Maura Tierney) and adopted African son, a kinky park ranger (Saturday Night Live’s Darrell Hammond) and the motley bunch of Scouts themselves.

Though there was clearly some ambition behind the project - which was developed at the Sundance Writers Lab and counts David Gordon Green among its executive producers - there’s very little spark in evidence on screen. The humour - involving lots of kid-inappropriate swearing, some poo and pee gags and a bit of nudity - has little edge to it and the comic timing is sloppy. 

Oswalt brings his characteristic mix of edge and cuddliness to the proceedings but Knoxville is an uninspiring villain. Hammond and Riggle have their moments but no one seems to be particularly enjoying their work.   

Production companies: Troop 41 Productions, Muskat Filmed Properties

US distribution: Magnet Releasing 

Executive producers: David Gordon Green, Michael B Clark, John Hodges, David Bausch

Cinematography: Steve Gainer

Editors: Alan Canant, Nat Sanders

Production designer: Matt Munn

Music: Eric D Johnson, Ryan Miller, Teese Gohl

Website: www.magnetreleasing.com/naturecalls

Main cast: Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Robb Riggle, Maura Tierney, Patrice O’Neal, Darrell Hammond, Peter McRobbie, Eddie Rouse, Ivan Dimitrov, Kelly Coffield Park