Hell’s Half Mile movie review: “Skippers” provides laughs and surprising emotion

By Zach Parfeniuk, reporter

One of the feature films on display at Hell’s Half Mile 2018 was “Skippers,” a movie notable for having been shot entirely in Bay City. “Skippers” was directed and written by Aaron Wertheimer. The plot centers around Carver (Chris Roberti), a drifter skiving in and out of towns, whose only goal seems to be finding thin, smooth, disk-like stones to skip across whatever water he can find.

Upon arriving in Bay City, Michigan, Carver finds himself at odds with Kevin (Kenny Zimlinghaus), a real-estate agent convinced that Carver’s skipping will drive down property values. Determined to put a stop to Carver’s ambition, Kevin tries to do whatever he can, whether it be using his coworker Jake to spy on Carver or teaming up with other townspeople determined to put a stop to Carver’s stone skipping.

Overall, “Skippers” has a very character-focused approach to comedy, most of the jokes come from the interactions between different characters and their reactions to different situations, and, most of the time (for me), the jokes worked.

The most notable example of this character-driven comedy comes from the interactions between the two principal characters. Kevin, a no-nonsense businessman who is focused on profit can’t wrap his head around a homeless-yet-somehow-content Carver, and that central difference between the two — the difference between their expectations and desires in life — is the basis for a lot of the jokes that are made when the two are near each other.

Beyond the humor, there are some surprisingly emotional scenes mixed in at the end that you wouldn’t expect from a movie as silly as this. Carver’s decision about his future is very telling of the kind of person he is, and the meaning he finds in skipping this whole time.

The acting should not go unmentioned either — Chris Roberti’s acting is very relaxed, and it fits in place perfectly with the kind of character he’s playing where he deadpans everyone who tries to block him from what he loves doing most. Kenny Zimlinghaus plays an enjoyable antagonist in Kevin, whose antics to defend the idea that Carver’s stone skipping is “dangerous” are as amusing as they are nonsensical. The rest of the cast all do a great job in making each character feel like a real person and, especially in a story as bizarre as this, it helps ground a lot of the comedy.

The main noticeable flaw I found was with some of the pacing. Personally, I thought the beginning of the film could have been rearranged. When we first meet Carver, we also meet Kevin in the exact same scene. As Kevin serves as the antagonist for a majority of the film, I felt that giving more time for him to be introduced would have benefitted the film.

Additionally, we see Carver take stones from a Backgammon club early in the film, and I felt that introducing Carver that way would’ve given us more time to be introduced to him as well as the plot.

Other than that minor flaw, “Skippers” proved to be an enjoyable comedy with some pacing problems, but with a good sense of humor throughout, and surprisingly resonant themes of life choices and the meaning behind those choices.

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