Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire

Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire is one of the worst titles this year. The upcoming Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God...Be Back by Five may give it a run for the money. The title refers to the Native American nicknames bestowed upon two brothers by their grandmother. Goat on Fire is Chris Remi (Derrick Martini), the older brother. Chris is high-strung and constantly angry. Smiling Fish is his younger brother Tony (Steven Martini), a struggling actor. Aside from plainly spelling these characteristics out, Chris and Tony do not really display any of them. They are merely two brothers down on their luck, trying to move on with their respective lives. They live together in Los Angeles, and at the beginning of the movie, both are having women problems.

Chris' girlfriend suspects him of cheating, so she is preparing to leave him. Tony's long-time girlfriend Allison (Amy Hathaway, Courage Under Fire, The Client) is holding something back from him; Tony believes she is pregnant. At the same time, both meet two women who seem almost perfect. For Chris, it is Kathy (Christa Miller, The Operator, ABC's The Drew Carey Show), the maillady. Her daughter Nicole (Heather Jae Marie) aspires to be an actress. They moved out to Los Angeles from Wyoming, but because of little success, are planning to move back. Tony meets Anna (Rosemarie Addeo, The Royal Scam), an animal wrangler from Italy. Tony is also dealing with Clive Winters (Bill Henderson, Bulworth, Conspiracy Theory), the uncle of a co-worker. Tony is responsible for providing rides for Clive, who has his own peculiarities. He is extremely fond of doughnuts and talking about his past in the movie industry.

Although the movie is not spectacular, Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire gives some hope for the movie industry. The movie makes worthy use of its miniscule $40,000 budget. The Martinis, along with director Kevin Jordan, write a delicate tale about life. The Martini brothers have obvious rapport as brothers, making their characters believable. The relationships move forward realistically, not in the usual Hollywood style. For Chris and Kathy, things are especially tender. Chris is unsure of what to do, because this new relationship is unlike what he experienced before. He really likes Nicole, and does not want to ruin things with her by moving too quickly with Kathy. If anything, he embodies the 'smiling fish,' moving along happily, aimlessly, without much of a plan. Tony is not much of a 'goat on fire.' If anybody experienced what he was going through, they would certainly do the same thing. He holds up remarkably well, all things considered.

Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire benefits most from Bill Henderson (also the film's composer). Clive knows he is near death. He cherishes the little things and wishes to teach something to the people around him (in other words, Tony). He understands what Tony is going through, and wants to help him. Henderson is a gives a pleasant yet powerful performance. The script treads familiar ground, but adds in enough warmth and odd humor to overlook its reliance on standard fare. By the end of the movie, things happen as expected, but unlike other movies, when Tony and Chris grow, they grow not because the script mandates it, but because they actually learn from their experiences. Besides, any movie that has a song titled "Corduroy Penis" and actually works it seamlessly into the movie deserves a chance.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief drug use.

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