Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Illustration for article titled Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

It's mildly unfortunate that, in the wake of the Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing, MadTV director/producer Bruce Leddy had to change the name of his indie comedy Shut Up And Sing to Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace. The new name is awkwardly wordy, and it means there's even less point to the characters' constant irritating repetition of their collective catchphrase "Shut up!" Then again, the title is the least of the film's problems; far more significant is its failed attempt to make its protagonists endearing instead of obnoxious.

The film begins with the seven of them performing an a cappella version of Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" for an enthusiastic college crowd, as narrator David Harbour waxes nostalgic about the glory days of their youth, "when there was nothing but possibility." Fifteen years later, their miniscule collegiate fame has given way to unexceptional life pitfalls: Harbour's hairline is receding, high-strung businessman Alexander Chaplin was just fired, Samrat Chakrabarti's acting career has gone nowhere, Reg Rogers just divorced amid a 500-day sexless dry spell, and so on. When one of their number suggests they reunite to sing at his wedding, they and their significant others—spouses, girlfriends, an infant, and hot Swedish nanny Camilla Thorsson—spend a weekend rehearsing at a lavish beach house, where it sometimes feels like they've launched an undeclared contest to see who can be the most self-absorbed, grating jerk.

Granted, none of them can compete with Chaplin's foul-mouthed, bitchy, emasculating wife (Molly Shannon), who's first introduced digging aggressively at her crotch and bellowing in a silly accent, "I dunno wha's goin' own today, but my pussy sho is itchay!" This off-putting bon mot is typical of a film where the humor is toxic, the problems are shallow and generic, and the underwritten, overacted interaction is yanked directly from The Big Chill and Peter's Friends. Everyone gets a chance to be awful, as the men ogle Thorsson, try to hire Rogers a hooker, and get arrested, while the women gossip, snipe, and contemplate infidelity. They all skinny-dip, get drunk, horse around, and whine about how they expected more out of life. But there's no sense that any of them are working for—or in any way deserve—more. It's not like their minor talent for performing pretty a cappella pop covers offsets their extreme assholery. But at least when they're singing, they aren't sniping and griping at each other. That original title really would have worked a lot better.