Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia is the wildest movie of Sundance 2020, and maybe the most outlandish film at the festival since Daniel Radcliffe played a farting corpse in 2016’s Swiss Army Man. Unsurprisingly, Daniels (the directing duo responsible for that endearingly odd gem) are also partially responsible for Omniboat, an anthology-style love letter to the city of Miami as seen through the eyes – or rather, the windshield – of a rip-roarin’ speedboat. Not convinced yet? How about this: in the first few minutes of this movie, the speedboat, which is named Lay’N Pipe, has sex with a souped up monster truck and gives birth to a baby speedboat, which has monster truck wheels mounted to its undercarriage. I hope you’re wearing your life preserver, because this movie gets weird.
Daniels are only a small part of the creative team that brought this wild-ass cinematic symphony to life. The film has thirteen credited directors and fourteen credited writers, all part of a collective called Borscht Corporation and who either live in or are from Florida, including Hannah Fidell, Terence Nance, Jillian Mayer, and many more. Each of them wrote the specific segments of the film they directed, with the exception of Phil Lord (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), who served as a writer/producer but didn’t direct. (I caught up with him after the film, and he told me he worked on the section in which the boat has sex with the monster truck.)
“Miami: the only city where you can tell a lie at breakfast and it’ll be true by nightfall.” Thus begins an epic opening monologue from real estate developer Jim Cummings (Mel Rodriguez from Fox’s The Last Man on Earth), a slick hype man trying to convince a board room of old men to invest in an ostentatious condo skyscraper with Cummings’ name on it. In the film’s opening minutes, he lays out the history of the city, explaining how folks from the midwest were essentially tricked into buying into the American Dream, realizing only when they arrived that they’d actually just bought tracts of swampland. Undeterred, they fought back floods, swamps, alligators, and more to build their own paradise from the ground up. That theme resurfaces as Omniboat grapples with climate change, rising tides, oncoming hurricanes, and Miami’s tenuous relationship with existence itself. The city is perpetually on the brink of destruction, and while that uncertainty often manifests itself on film in the form of nihilistic hedonism (think Scarface, Wild Things, etc.), this movie touches on some of the less explored aspects of the city and its residents in its own peculiar way.
The segments of the film bleed into each other, some featuring recurring characters like Rodriguez’s Jim Cummings, and others focusing on their own mini-stories, most of which put the speedboat front and center. Adam Pally and Finn Wolfhard play an uncle and nephew, respectively, who go out on the boat one day and try to befriend rapper Uncle Luke from 2 Live Crew (a major figure in the Miami community); Casey Wilson stars in her own version of Jumbo as a woman who literally falls in love with the boat itself; a group of interpretive dancers glide through marshlands pretending to be hunter and prey; Rick Ross is embodied by an alien who has had a moment of pure creativity; on a fake reality show within the film, a man dressed in a Minion costume attempts to repossess the boat; Robert Redford voices a dolphin-man-creature who may or not be some kind of deity. It’s a head-spinning experience, and the type of movie in which either a transcendent or tedious moment could be right around the next corner, which keeps things exciting even in its lesser segments.
Miami is nicknamed “The Magic City,” so it’s fitting that this movie left me just as baffled as the best magic tricks I’ve ever seen. An inexplicable, unforgettable, see-it-to-believe-it ode to one of the country’s most unique cities, Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia is hilarious enough to entertain a wider audience than just the cult crowd it’s guaranteed to please. But as one of the directors said in a post-screening Q&A, “The best compliment anyone can give this film is that it exists,” and in a world in which Hollywood is dominated by intellectual property, I’m thrilled that these filmmakers willed into existence a piece of IP that’s actually intellectual, as well as being bonkers, bizarre, and occasionally brilliant. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to give this a traditional number rating, so instead I’ll simply suggest that if you’re an adventurous moviegoer and the opportunity ever arises to see this, grab as many of your friends as possible and check it out. But don’t just take my word for it: follow the advice of the movie’s monster truck license plate, and live your life with “NO-RGRTS.”
/Film Rating: ??? out of 10
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