So Jeff Daniels decides to make a movie about Michigan (the fair city of Escanaba in the U. P. to be exact). Yes, the first Purple Rose Films production, “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” a film written and directed by Daniels and based off his play of the same name. With its localized Michigan specificity, it”s chock full of jokes about “The Bridge,” Mackinaw “fudge suckers,” sap laden whiskey and a good “ol game of euchre to boot.

Through the eyes of pop Soady (Harve Presnell), we go back to the start of deer season at the Soady deer camp in 1989. 43-year-old Reuben Soady (Daniels) heads out for another year of supposed cursed luck: This poor sap has never shot a deer in his life.

When he arrives to camp with the traditional “Is this the Soady Deer Camp?” shout to his father Albert (Presnell), we know the route this film is going to take a more goofy, romanticized vision of what deer hunting is all about (yes, the only time Bambi actually bites the big one occurs when imbecile cousin Walter shoots one from the outhouse while taking a meaty crap).

When younger brother Remnar (Joey Albright) pulls up with a free case of Lienankugel (which he wins through a rather hilarious trashy bar contest), hunting season has begun and hijinks sure are afoot. After Albert discovers the Soady whisky all turned to sap, the crazy local former UFO abductee Jimmer (David Albright) shows up with wild stories that his “Chevy shook a shit,” and ignited on fire.

Though the group doesn”t get too riled about this rather random occurrence, when Reuben”s euchre hand turns to twos and threes when “there aint twos and threes for miles,” the curse upon poor Reuben seems to come to light in more ways than one.

Daniels” rather sweet, romantic world of the Soady deer camp is mostly about fun, family, flatulence and face (saving Reuben”s, that is, for being the oldest Soady not to bag a buck). This film, though, packed with regional Michigan humor (it”s only being released so far in select Michigan theaters), works on the larger level of continuing a family legacy and living up to what your family establishes as a standard.

Daniels and his supporting cast of local unknowns (wonderfully matched by the spastic, ridiculous glory of Albright”s Jimmer from Menominee) pull this film along some of its rather shoddy, too out-of-this-script-world extraterrestrial parts. While “Escanaba” loses its focus at times, foraying off into a lame explanation about God and the DNR, the main crux of the film (the Soady family) stays true to its yooperness.

It”s not the funniest film and Daniels” blocking at times feels a little too stagey but damn, it captures the fine spirit of Michigan at the start of deer season. As Remnar gleefully proclaims, “It”s like Christmas with guns.”

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