Chapter Zero Release Date: 1999 Genre: Comedy Director(s): Aaron Mendelsohn Writer(s): Aaron Mendelsohn (Air Bud, Air Bud: Golden Receiver) Starring: Dylan Walsh, Penelope Ann Miller The fact that Chapter Zero cost $1.3 million dollars to make, and got twenty-three days for filming, makes me sad. Made in 1998, a few years before Dylan Walsh’s name […]

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Chapter Zero
Release Date: 1999
Genre: Comedy
Director(s): Aaron Mendelsohn
Writer(s): Aaron Mendelsohn (Air Bud, Air Bud: Golden Receiver)
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Penelope Ann Miller

The fact that Chapter Zero cost $1.3 million dollars to make, and got twenty-three days for filming, makes me sad.

Made in 1998, a few years before Dylan Walsh’s name value expanded thanks “Nip/Tuck,” Chapter Zero is that kind of movie that Fred Olen Ray could’ve made just as good (given the same script) for a quarter the cost. It astonishes me that Chapter Zero, which probably had a lot of its money invested in shooting on film that looks terrible, cost such an enormous sum of money to make.

The end result isn’t even that good. Written and directed by the man behind the Air Bud series, Chapter Zero recounts the director’s semi-real life crisis that left him alienating those around him. For months Adam Lazarus (Walsh) sits in his room with a video camera, taping himself as he narrates his life story. The son of an eccentric artist who always dresses in drag, Adam’s a book editor who has a great relationship with his girlfriend, but finds himself unhappy with his life after his great American novel is torn apart by his boss. This sends him down the path with his life story, which he eventually adapts into a book that is destined for success. He must eventually decide if the book is worth hurting the people he loves.

Chapter Zero is a half-decent comedy for its first half, but eventually falls into a pratfall suffered by many before it. It becomes an angst-filled drama, and at that point Zero stops being entertaining.

What really killed the story is that director/writer Aaron Mendelsohn intentionally paints Adam as lacking talent. We’re supposed to dislike the boss character because she has a history of killing the spirits of young editors to keep them at their job. When she trashes Adam’s book, we assume she did so because she’s a bitch. Just a few minutes later Adam’s compassionate girlfriend gives a similar assessment of the book. So why, again, are we supposed to hate the boss?
DVD: A really bad making-of (which is just someone with a camera walking around the set) and a commentary with writer/director Mendelsohn that is the best part about the whole film. While he starts off talking about the specifics of the scenes he eventually winds up giving a beginner’s guide to the bullshit an indie filmmaker will meet while trying to hire actors with any hint of power. The best story comes when he reveals that Dean Stockwell was slated to play the father, but called two days before production began to say that he had never read the script. He apparently would never have taken the part if he knew that he’d be “playing a cross dressing faggot.” Alas, no Stockwell in the final product.

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