Plot: Gene (Simon Fenton) loves to spend time at the local theater, soaking in b movies and the scarier, the better. He is an experienced genre film viewer and of all the various filmmakers and studios, he has a special interest in the cinema of Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman). Woolsey is a b movie maven and the king of gimmicks, using all kinds of trickery to reel in audiences, from hypnotism to electric shocks on the seats, whatever will boost the box office. His latest production is Mant, about a man and ant combined thanks to atomic exposure, so Gene can’t wait to see it for himself. Not only is Mant coming to his town, but Woolsey himself will be in attendance and plans to test out his latest tricks there. At the same time, real life atomic threats loom and some find the movie’s release distasteful, which is music to Woolsey’s ears. Will Mant be the hit Woolsey needs to keep his career (and relationship) afloat or have his marketing gimmicks gone too far this time?
Entertainment Value: A love letter to the old school b movies and schlock peddlers like William Castle, Matinee is a fun movie and one that fans of genre cinema should find to appreciate in. Castle is the obvious inspiration for Lawrence Woolsey, especially since he uses some of the exact gimmicks Castle did, such as the nurse in the lobby and electrified seats. While that is the most prominent tribute in Matinee, the movie is filled with all kinds of references and in jokes, all paying respect to the b movie craze and those who helped make it happen. But even if you’re not an expert on the genre, you’ll likely appreciate the humor here, with John Goodman in a terrific role and some skilled coming of age thematic elements. Goodman is larger than life here, but also shows the more human, down to earth side of such a grand showman, who struggles to keep things afloat even if his facade is one of grandiose and splendor. Cathy Moriarty is fantastic as his partner in crime, while Simon Fenton and Lisa Jakub have good chemistry as our young romance. Fans of the old b movies will be the prime audience here, but anyone who likes a fun comedy with some heart should appreciate Matinee.
No nakedness. This one has a real sense of innocence in most scenes, especially when it concerns young love and romance. A kiss in a bomb shelter is about as close as Matinee comes to sexual content. No blood. The movie is much like those classic b movies, with no real bloodshed, just some monster effects here and there. Mant looks awesome and captures an authentic b movie vibe, he could easily blend in with the other assorted old school atomic creations. There’s some mild violence, but it is all tame and never that tense, though the frequent references to the nuclear scare of the time could spook some squeamish viewers. The dialogue is fun, with a lot of movie references, snake oil from Woolsey, and period lingo, all delivered in enthusiastic performances. Woolsey’s sales pitches and smooth talk are the highlight, as Goodman really shines in the role and makes the most of the script. As for craziness, aside from the Mant madness, this one is pretty grounded.
Overall Craziness: 1/10