When Jeff Daniels situates himself in the director’s chair, after having written the script, and then stands in front of the camera to star in his own film, everyone is in for a treat. The accomplished stage and film actor has concocted a wonderfully imaginative script for his three-tiered effort of “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” Curiously strange and downright hilarious, this adaptation of the same-named play is a laugh riot geared toward Michiganders, but funny for everyone.
Daniels plays Ruben Soady, the oldest person in Escanaba never to “hang a buck.” With hunting season a day away, everyone superstitiously avoids him as he travels out to the family’s cabin. Something has kept him from shooting his deer, and if he does not kill one this season, he will break the infamous Soady-family record for oldest man without a kill.
Upon arriving at the cabin, he is welcomed by his father Albert (Harve Presnell, “Fargo”) and quirky brother Remnar (Joey Albright). The relationship amongst the Soady men is one of the strangest dynamics ever filmed. After a brief time, they are joined by the short, mumbling, bottomless-appetite Jimmer (Wayne David Parker). Strange occurrences begin happening: They experience alien sightings, Albert’s whiskey turns to sap and Jimmer’s car catches on fire and mysteriously drives off. It only becomes wackier when Ranger Tom (Randall Godwin) joins the bunch, but Ruben remains hell-bent on bagging his first buck.
With Euchre, deer hunting and “Uper” dialect, it is a treat for Midwesterners who can relate to the story. Daniels’ film is fun, original and weird enough to be hilarious without the overkill that most recent comedies force. Although he almost certainly will not receive any tremendous recognition because of the regional release and relative obscurity of the film, this is a great directorial debut that Daniels has packed full of rambunctious energy.
Daniels, Presnell and Albright are a great trio with true comedic value. People from the northern Midwest can genuinely appreciate the authenticity of the accents and quirkiness of the actors. Their dialect is the perfect blend of Canadian and Michiganian. Parker’s character Jimmer is the funniest part of the movie. His whiskey-chugging, rooftop introduction is a stroke of comedic genius. Watching these little known actors on screen is a relief from the clich