Funny Pages is one of those movies that is certain to grab the attention of diehard fans of Crumb Comics, Ghost World, or American Splendor. And to give praise where praise is due, I applaud writer/director Owen Kline for creating a movie that feels like an extra long underground comic like the ones I mentioned above. My problem, however, is that, considering this is a movie, I expected more in terms of storytelling and character development. and that is where the movie adaptations of Ghost World and American Splendor reign supreme and this movie falls short.
Daniel Zolghadri stars as high school teen, and aspiring comic artist Robert. After a tragic freak accident takes the life of his teacher and mentor, Robert begins to believe that he might be wasting his life in school, and wants to go out on his own, explore the world and create his art. Though this doesn’t sit very well with his stressed out and sometimes overbearing parents (Maria Dizzia, Josh Pais), they reluctantly allow him to temporarily move out, get a job, and spend time working on his comics. However, much disappointment and bizarre experiences lie ahead as Robert tries to discover his soul in hopes of creating art that will change the world.
Director Owen Kline, cinematographers Sean Price Williams, Hunter Zinny, and the art and production design crew have all outdone themselves in creating a movie that feels dingy, grimey, and pulpy like a comic book version of this movie would feel. This is really what I like best about this movie. It definitely captures the spirit and craziness of underground comics. However, I feel that this movie needed much more to keep me and audiences more invested in its characters and story. One can easily leaf through a nasty underground comic and laugh or wince at the wild scenarios, but toss it aside as a novelty. That’s what sets apart comics (and their film counterparts) like Ghost World and American Splendor. Their characters and stories offer so much more and demand additional readings/viewings.
And while the cast all performs solidly, there wasn’t much more to this comic book movie that will keep audiences wanting more because it just doesn”t completely satisfy to begin with. Funny Pages is currently getting a limited theatrical release, but is a movie that is better left for viewing at home. Director Owen Kline definitely shows great promise as a filmmaker, but he too needs to find his soul to tell a thorougly enriching story.