The Trotsky is a movie that desperately wants to be a
cult hit. Sure, it is definitely a bizarre comedy, but not one that is destined
for cult status
. It’s simply trying too hard to be strange rather than
simply being the result of a unique vision of a filmmaker. The movie is still a
decent comedy and not without its charms. Just don’t expect it to have much of
a shelf life.
Former Popular Mechanics for Kids host and current Club Apatow member Jay Baruchel stars as a misfit teen named Leon Bronstein. For reasons best known to himself, Leon has decided that he is the reincarnation of socialist leader Leon Trotsky. The opening scenes see him struggling to organize a failed strike for worker’s rights at his father’s company. As punishment, he finds himself placed in a public school where he immediately antagonizes the principal (Colm Feore) and joins the student union with dreams of revolution.
Of course, high school kids don’t care enough to form any sort of revolution. At least they don’t without a delusional teen brave enough to spur them on, right? Right?
The plot is predictable but reasonably satisfying. The message about teenage apathy is apt, even if a strong high school satire could have been made on that subject without all the socialist baggage. In the end, the movie is dragged down by its main conceit. There are strong performances across the board, Jacob Tierney directs with confidence, and the script has a handful of decent laughs. Unfortunately the central Leon Trotsky conceit feels like a forced attempt at making what is essentially a light comedy seem political and intelligent. It also doesn’t help that the entire project has been fashioned on Rushmore, but with Max Fisher as Trotsky. The deadpan humor, verbose dialogue, widescreen cinematography, and musical montages in The Trotsky come lifted from Wes Anderson wholesale, which can be more than a little distracting.
Fortunately the actors keep things interesting. Bauchel works his geeky charm for all it’s worth. Feore clearly has fun mugging his way through the villain role. Up-and-coming comedic actor Ricky Mabe (Zack And Miri Make A Porno) steals some scenes as the apathetic student union leader, and Robert Altman regular Michael Murphy lends the film some big screen legitimacy as a pothead lawyer. With this being a Montréal based production, director Jacob Tierney even sneaks in some cameo roles for the stars of last year’s hysterical Canuk comedy Who Is KK Downey (a movie with a legitimate shot at cult status) and their presence is welcome in any Canadian film. Strong acting keeps the movie afloat, but just barely.
The Trotsky is a cute idea for a movie and it never really ascends beyond that. True, it’s smart and silly, but bares resemblance to too many better subversive high school comedies to ever stand on its own. The movie won’t become the cult hit the filmmakers clearly set out to make simply because there’s nothing memorable enough about the project to inspire devotion from a loyal fanbase. This is no cinematic revolution.