Feed the Fish


Quirky Northern Natives

Feed the Fish

Main Cast: Ross Partridge, Katie Aselton, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Michael Matzdorff

Feed the Fish is a little indie comedy set in the cold of a small town Wisconsin winter.  Though Tony Shalhoub (a Wisconsin native and one of the film’s producers) is featured prominently in the cover art, it’s really the story of Joe, a one hit wonder children’s book writer looking to break through his persistent writer’s block.

Joe (Ross Partridge) comes to northern Wisconsin with friend (and brother of girlfriend) JP (Michael Chernus).  Each has a goal – JP to “train” for the towns yearly Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan and Joe to write the second book on his contract before he has to give back his advance.  They’re staying in the house of a relative of JP – one of their few responsibilities is to feed the fish.  JP is sent away for an extended hospital stay after a nasty (and pretty funny) run-in with a badger, leaving Joe on his own to woo Sif (Katie Aselton), the daughter of the local sheriff (Tony Shalhoub).  It’s a basic fish out of water romantic comedy.

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy in Feed the Fish as far as plot structure or characters.  We’ve seen it all before.  But the entire production has a sweet sincerity about it that’s most definitely lacking in mainstream romantic comedy.  Filmed on location in a real Wisconsin winter, the setting is authentic enough to give the assortment of eccentric characters a little grounding.  Barry Corbin even shows up as the grumpy grandpa, to give us just that little extra nudge toward seeing Feed the Fish as kin to Northern Exposure.

The primary romance between Joe and Sif struggles a little with underdevelopment and slightly unimpressive performances.  Joe seems like a good guy – especially in his interaction with Grumpy Grandpa – but he’s the straight man off of which the townies bounce their northern nuttiness.  Aside from that he doesn’t have a lot of his own personality and it’s a little tough to care about his romantic future.  The same holds true for Sif.

The supporting players, though given les screen time, do a better job with their roles.  Tony Shalhoub is great fun as the sheriff with little patience for this clueless outsider who he is certain will break his daughter’s heart.  Chernus really is funny as he trains for the Polar Plunge and recovers from his mishap.  Even Corbin gets in some good curmudgeonly dialogue.  They play well against the setting, one a bumbling stranger, the others old hands at dealing with the cold.

Feed the Fish isn’t a spectacular movie, nor is it anything new and different.  But it is a decent romantic comedy that uses its setting to its benefit.  It may try a little too hard to be quirky in places, but none of the eccentricity on display is depicted with malice.  Rather, there’s a nice level of appreciation for the people who live in this small town and know precisely how to survive and thrive during its punishing winter months.  3 stars and an A for effort.

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