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Any Paul Rudd movie that has his character say, “I know I’m not a fun person” should be regarded with suspicion. Writer-director David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche, adapted from a 2011 Icelandic film, is therefore an automatic question mark. More along the lines of Green’s All the Real Girls than Pineapple Express, the atmospheric, dull, and often annoying film is an OK fit for co-star Emile Hirsch, who leans toward dramas. But not for Rudd: There’s stretching as an actor, and then there’s miscasting. In this case, it’s the latter.
Prince Avalanche isn’t about a whole lot. It’s set in rural Texas in the summer of 1988, a year after massively destructive wildfires. Alvin (Rudd, stern) and Lance (Hirsch, appropriately immature) decide to spend the season working on country roads—painting yellow lines and such—away from their usual city lives. Alvin, the boss, doesn’t seem to like Lance much, but hired him because he’s the brother of Alvin’s girlfriend. Alvin is all about solitude and reflection (“There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone,” he schools his partner). Lance, meanwhile, cares only about “getting the little man squeezed.” Therefore he spends the weekends going into town and trying to get laid, while Alvin writes letters to his girlfriend and stares.
During the work week, they bicker. About what to listen to while they’re on the clock, about women, about how to approach life. It’s incredibly serious, and even at a mere 94 minutes, incredibly tiresome. Unsurprisingly, it premiered at Sundance, defined by typical indie characteristics such as minimal dialogue and a somber, guitar-picking soundtrack. (At least until the two talk out their problems. Then the triumphant score tells you to feel happy.) And is there anything more boring than watching people get drunk?
Green does pull off some well-done scenes, such as an early, awesome (in the true sense of the word) shot of the wildfires and an aching exchange between Alvin and an elderly woman who is sifting through the ashy rubble that used to be her house. And when our characters’ hearts are broken, yours will break, too. The film’s theme, though only lightly touched on, seems to be the spirit-lifting potential of new beginnings. But instead of making your soul soar, Prince Avalanche will only leave you feeling the thud of a dud.