★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Jeffrey Combs lends his voice to a smooth-talking lump of bathroom mold in this slow moving psychotronic film. Did I mention Jeffrey Combs? Jeffrey Combs!
Directed by Don Thacker
Ian Folivor hasn’t left his apartment in over a year. He hasn’t had a shower in a few months, hasn’t washed his clothes in at least as long, and quite possibly hasn’t worn pants since he turned his back on the outside world. Ian [Adrian DiGiovanni; Depth (2016)] is depressed, suicidal, and tired of dealing with what he feels is a pointless existence.
Until, that is, he meets The Mold [voiced by Jeffrey Combs; Re-Animator (1985)]. The Mold talks Ian off the proverbial ledge. The Mold helps him turn his life around. The Mold kills the delivery girl and makes Ian carve up her corpse. But hey, everything has a price, right?
Hands down, the very best thing about Motivational Growth is the beautifully smooth, impossibly sauve, and wonderfully melodramatic brilliance that industry veteran Jeffrey Combs injects into each and every line as The Mold. Though the movie reportedly only cost about $176,000, the practical puppeteering that brings The Mold to life is well done and Combs’ voice fits the character perfectly.
Without a decent script, of course, good voice work is a waste of time. Luckily, writer/director Don Thacker provided his characters with some great dialog. Between the two main characters — Ian and The Mold — Combs’ Mold (sorry, “THE” Mold) comes away with the lion’s share of quotable quotes, but both actors do a good job making the craziness coming out of their mouths sound at least partially sane.
There are other characters who flit in and out of the movie, but none are as well developed as the two leads. Neighbor lady, Leah [Danielle Doetsch; Bikini Girls On Ice (2009)], pops in the most often as the potential love interest, but the rest never stay too long. Combining this “transient acting” style with what’s essentially a two-set movie (Ian’s living room & his bathroom) makes Motivational Growth feel like a stage play or an early-80s sitcom. And not necessarily in a good way.
But if you like weird, this movie’s got weird. Most of the music in the film is 8-bit computer generated tunes, there are made-up TV shows that feature most prominently during Ian’s fungoid fever dreams, and there are occasional cartoony interludes that also look like throwbacks to the glory days of pixel animation. While all of these things add to the psychotronic lunacy in Motivational Growth, some of them — especially the odd TV bits — tend to throw off the movie’s pacing.
With its uneven flow and its slice-of-life focus, Motivational Growth, is a polarizing film. You either marvel in its Jeffrey Combs-driven bizarreness or you’re bored that nothing much really happens. You’ll see the “twist” ending coming as soon as they set that ball in motion, but if you like a good dose of weird from the low-budget side of the same street as Cemetery Man (1994), Highway to Hell (1991), and Killer Sofa (2019), you’ll have a mildewy good time with this one.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.