Awful Nice Is a One-Note Comedy, but That Note’s Sometimes Funny


The comedy of antisocial behavior tends to work best when there’s a nucleus of actual humanity, if only to remind you why all the incivility is funny.

The creators of Awful Nice seem to be aware of that contrast, but never really succeed at grounding their characters in real human behavior, and as a result, the interactions of the two leads are like a finger hitting a single piano note for 90 minutes.

Jim (James Pumphrey) and Dave (Alex Rennie) inherit a lake house in Branson, Missouri, from their dead father, and decide to renovate and flip it. Jim is impulsive, easily distracted by food, toys, or quantities of shiny coins, dragging Jim, an associate college professor, into wrestling contests, destructive indoor and outdoor sports, and antisocial behavior in public places — all of which tend to escalate to punching and facial lacerations.

Director Todd Sklar sets scenes in the area’s dumpy restaurants, tourist traps, and miniature golf courses, but despite its naturalism, the film never develops a sense of location.

Branson is a genuinely weird place with a culture of tourists, carpetbaggers, and locals largely unexamined in narrative film. But the script, by Sklar and Rennie, is mostly indifferent to these possibilities, instead populating Awful Nice with broadly drawn eccentrics who have little relationship to the backdrop of the Ozark region.

It’s often funny, and the writers are smart, but the film is like an arcless, extended episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.