Popcorn (2007)

For movie buffs, working at a cinema sounds like a dream job. You get to talk movies all day, get into free screenings, and be around the product you love during working hours. It’s kind of surprising, then, that more films aren’t set inside the movie theater. I mean, doesn’t it seem as if filmmakers who used to work there might want to set their film there? “Write from experience” and all that? Popcorn is one such film set inside the multiplex, and it gives both a behind-the-scenes experience and a love story.

The film’s lead is Danny (Jack Ryder), a teenager who sometimes goes to the movies. The girl who rips his ticket, Suki (Jodi Albert), reminds him of one of the girls in his manga, and therefore is the girl of his dreams. He can’t talk to her as a customer, so he decides instead to join the crew at the cinema, because being in uniform will give him confidence or something. Maybe he hopes to get to know her through osmosis. It’s not a plan that has a lot of thought put into it.

What it does do is give us a surprisingly uncommon setting for this type of film, introduces us to an interesting cast of characters, and provides a sweet, if not necessarily fresh, love story. Or, it’s a “love story” if you can call it that. The protagonist’s sole motivation is “woo the female,” and while that’s only part of the focus — there are a couple of subplots which garner the same amount of attention — it feels like the main one because it’s pretty much all the lead cares about. He is single-minded.

The subplots include: a scheme cooked up by the cinema’s assistant manager (Andrew Lee Potts) and a couple of the employees which involves stealing some of the money; a “mole” among the workers attempting to figure out if anything suspicious is going on — and since there is, the manager is trying to hide his activities and sniff out the mole; and a couple of observations about what it’s like to work in a movie theater. That last one might not be a “subplot,” so to speak, but it’s important enough to warrant a mention.

Popcorn is a very teen-centric film. It got a 15 certificate in its home country, the United Kingdom, and the majority of its cast either are or look like teenagers. Despite this, the dialogue feels more natural than most PG-13 movies — a 15 certificate allows for swearing, which makes it sound more realistic considering, you know, teenagers often are a profane bunch — and there’s a sweetness to a lot of it. Danny really does just want to get his dream girl, and he’ll do whatever it takes, as long as it’s “nice” in order to achieve that.

Or, at least, what he thinks is “nice.” You might object to some of the actions he takes in his quest for Suki — and it is a “quest”; the film tries to liken his story to that of the Hero’s Journey — and the filmmakers are right there with you. The unconventional aspect to Popcorn comes in the form of how the lead character gets a bit of comeuppance for the actions he takes that have the potential to hurt other people (to an extent, at least).

I haven’t yet mentioned it, but Popcorn is a comedy. On that basis, it gets judged on how much it makes you laugh. I found Popcorn quite funny. It has a good mix of visual and audible humor, and while it’ll probably be funnier to those who are a teen, fondly remember being a teen, or work/worked in a movie theater, there’s enough universal appeal that it’ll likely have most walk away from it having laughed a fair amount. I had a decent enough time with it, anyway, and that’s really all I can report on. It tried to make me laugh and for the most part it succeeded.

Add in a talented young cast of British actors and you’ve got a movie that’s worth watching. Unless you’re a connoisseur of British film, you’re not likely to have heard more than a couple of the names in the cast list, but the ensemble is fine here. Nobody truly stands out, but that’s mostly due to each character getting a couple of crucial moments and all of the actors being more than competent at their jobs. If everyone is good, then nobody is going to stick out from the crowd.

Popcorn might be a little tough to see if you live in North America — it only got a theatrical release in the UK and its DVD releases have been limited to R2 and R4 locations — but if a love story set against a backdrop of a behind-the-scenes tour of a cinema sounds like it might interest you, I’d recommend giving it a shot. You’ll experience an interesting and funny movie that has a number of good elements, such as the performances, setting, dialogue, and somewhat unconventional central romance. I had fun with Popcorn and I suspect you will, too.

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