smiling fish and goat on fire (2000)

director: kevin jordan

steven martini, derick martini, bill henderson, christa miller

In an age where movies seem incomplete without special effects and the only adult relationships we see in films are inevitably cast with either Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan (or preferably both), you start to worry that the only place where you can see relatively recognizable humans work out their stress and anxiety is on prime-time sitcoms.

The plot of Kevin Jordanís new film, the unfortunately titled Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire, might well be that of a sitcom. Two brothers (played by real-life brothers Steven and Derick Martini) live in their parentsí house after the parentsí death in a car crash. The older brother is a tightly-wound accountant, his younger sibling is a carefree actor. Naturally, they have problems with the women in their lives. 

A meeting with the older, iconoclastic romantic Clive (played by jazz singer Bill Henderson) is the catalyst that changes the brothersí lives. On t.v., it would be a mix of Titus and Frasier with Isaac Hayes as Clive. The casting of Christa Miller from The Drew Carrey Show, as a single mother mail carrier the younger brother gets involved with, only faintly edges the film closer to the small screen.

The film is based on that reliable sitcom adage: Young men are emotional stumblebums. But where television might have made the point with a few nasty zingers and a gurgling laughtrack, Jordanís film is sly and drolly funny, especially in scenes where the brothers communicate in a sarcastic, dismal dialogue that anyone, male of female, will recognize with a wince.