Fran Molon is a down-on-his-luck futon salesman struggling to get by in a store where the only money is in mattresses. When his annoying co-worker suggests that the winner of the local mini marathon get the coveted assistant manager position Fran quickly agrees. Realizing that winning the race may be his only chance for success Fran trains everywhere, from interstates to flea markets to prepare. But does Fran have what it takes to beat his nasty co-worker in this winner-take-all-mattresses race to glory?
Life is about the small stuff, the small stories between people and their place on the planet. On occasion, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the bigger picture, a far more meaningful scope from our otherwise minutia laden existence, but few of us are clued in enough to seize the opportunity. No, for most of us, it s the daily grind, the far too early alarm, the rushed breakfast and the crazy commute to work. Toss in kids, spousal complaints, other familial fractures, aging, health, social obligations, the bedtime which never seems to arrive, and the tiny terrors that orbit around them all and the universe does seem to shrink down to a single spot on an infinite plain. For Fran Molon (Larry Dahlke), frustrated futon salesman, everything has been reduced to mattresses - quilted, comfort-top, firm, extra firm and European styled. If he can conquer bedding, he can conquer the world...well, maybe not. Thus beginning the hilarious, heartfelt misadventures of a man, his mission, and The Mini. The title of Ron Beck s genial indie comedy comes from an annual foot race. It s a competition that Fran s late father won several years ago. Now, the weak-willed employee of Bedroom Warehouse wants to use the event as a means of landing the coveted assistant manager s promotion. Sadly, his burly good old boy boss Stan (Darrell Francis) can only envision mattress maverick - and drinking buddy - Rick (Chris Stack) as his right hand man. Eventually, they make an unusual wager - if Fran can win the Mini like his old man did, Rick will step aside and let him take the promotion. Now, with the help if his security guard best friend Dale (Jeff Stockbridge) and potential girlfriend Carmen (Angie Craft), Fran will try to overcome his fears while tapping into the inner winner that will make his sleep set dreams come true. A critic more famous than yours truly once argued that the only standard by which a comedy can be judged is this: did it make you laugh? If not, then it failed. Even if it does everything else right, it upends the core convention of the genre. If yes, then it begins its long, often arduous road to ultimate cinematic success. While The Mini might stop somewhere short of a masterpiece (or even memorable), it is indeed a very funny, very insightful look at life along the fringes of society. No one is suggesting that Rob Beck, writer and director of this winning farce, is trying to argue some universal truths. Instead, he is using his Indianapolis backdrop, a strip mall full of Midwestern values, and a slightly skewed sense of wit to paint a portrait of what it takes to make it through each and every day. That we root for Fran to win, that we want to see Stan and Rick get the comeuppance they so clearly deserve, is indicative of the talent behind the lens. The people in front of the camera do a fine job as well. Playing the loveable loser nerd is never easy, but Dahlke does a good job of walking the fine line between aggravating and agreeable. He is always better working off of someone else, be it his meddling mother or longtime pal Dale. There is a tendency to take Fran over the top, to make him an object of such abject ridicule that no true human being could tolerate such trashing, but thanks to a deft performance hand, Dahlke keeps things in check. Similarly, as the slimy Rick, soap star Stack offers just enough vulnerability to keep his villain viable. Reminiscent of Billy Mitchell, the video game champion from King of Kong who has lived off that title for a tad too long, there s a subliminal slightness to what the character represents that Stack inhabits flawlessly. --Bil Gibron (Pop Matters)
The film follows a futon salesman (Larry Dahlke) as he trains for a mini-marathon in the hopes of impressing his boss and moving up to mattress sales (talk about dreaming big). This story may seem thin, but deep within it lies a biting look at our culture's celebration of the mediocre and superficial. The film delves into this satire rather subtly and quietly, which was the intended approach according to post producer Marty Allain. Instead of over-stylizing or trying to romanticize a sect of society's underbelly or simply being as profane as one can possibly be, we took a different route and tried to create a fun-loving and sweet comedy, more wacky and goofy than anything else, Allain elaborated. Refreshingly, the film is not a rough, in-your-face comedy like most independent film efforts, but a nice, modest little comedy. Writer-director, Ron Beck shows that you don't need raunchy material to get laughs (listen up, Kevin Smith). Master of comedy, John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) praised The Mini as a very funny, heart-warming comedy. The Mini won several film festival awards around the country including Best of Fest at Temecula Valley International Film Festival (Temecula, California), Best Comedy at Bluegrass Independent Film Festival (Louisville, Kentucky), Best Narrative Feature at Foursite Film Festival (Ogden, Utah), and the Audience Choice Award at the Da Vinci Film Festival (Corvallis, Oregon). Upon its release today, the film becomes one of only a handful of feature film productions shot exclusively in Indiana in the last 10 years that can boast national distribution. We are proud to be one of a small group of films made by Indiana filmmakers and shot solely at Indianapolis area locations to be available on the shelves at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores across the country. The hundreds of Hoosiers who helped with the film as actors, location owners, volunteer crew and extras should be proud that their hard work will be seen by so many says director Ron Beck. The Mini's national distribution also includes on-line availability starting today, May 11 through Blockbuster Digital, Netflix and Amazon.com. The film will be available on-demand reaching approximately 20 million homes through Avail TVN Network affiliates on-demand services in select markets starting May 24, 2010. So, be on the lookout. This is one straight-to-DVD film actually worth watching. --Sam Watermeier (nuvo.net)
To the Victor Belong the Spoils by Betty Jo Tucker. How refreshing to see an independent film comedy that can be enjoyed by the entire family! The Mini surprised me with its delightfully funny -- and clean -- story about an underdog salesman who takes on his more powerful nemesis in a race that could change his down-trodden life forever. Filled with colorful small-town characters who definitely grow on you as the movie progresses, The Mini reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite, another indie gem. Fran Molon (Larry Dahlke) could be the poster boy for low self-esteem. He still lives with his sweet mother (Sally Noble Hager) and works in a mattress store for a bully of a manager (Darrell Francis) who won t even let him sell mattresses only futons. The mattress sales belong to Rick (Chris Stack), a guy who s been humiliating Fran for years. Fran s gawky best friend Dale (Jeff Stockberger) usually stands by him, but neither of these pals would ever be invited to join Mensa. And forget about the dating world at least until the lovely Carmen (Angie Craft) enters the scene. Of course, Fran falls for Carmen, which gives him the courage to enter the local Mini marathon after his boss agrees that the store manager position would be Fran s if he wins. Alas, Rick also enters the race, so our hero s chances for victory go from slim to none. I had a great time watching Fran s nontraditional training for the big day and I couldn t help cheering him on, despite the obstacles in his way. All the actors deliver highly watchable performances here, even the ones with limited exposure on camera. For example, the annoying mechanic played by Marty Allain made me laugh whenever he appeared. His overly pomaded hair and officious attitude were just right for this amusing supporting role. Allain, who also happens to be the post producer for The Mini, points out that this film was produced on credit cards, determination, and a passion for filmmaking. And, although the movie may have a traditional storyline, Allain says, We tried to capture some of the absurd and ironic aspects of Midwestern life with cartoon-like characters and stark locales and hopefully, in the process, gave the film some trippy subtext for those that wanted to look a little deeper. Mission accomplished. Written and directed by Ron Beck, a first-timer, The Mini makes me want to see more movies with his name at the helm. (Released by Maverick Entertainment Group; not rated by MPAA.) Listen to Marty Allain talk about The Mini by clicking here on or after July 13, 2010. --Betty Jo Tucker (ReelTalk Movie Reviews)
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