It’s October 30, 1938 and a classroom is filled with kids in the small town of Lullaby, New Jersey. “Tomorrow is Halloween, do you know what that means?” says Peg (Anna Camp) to her class of youngsters. Class “Candy”! Peg replies “It means for one night you let go of your inhibitions and become someone completely different”. Little did the small town of Lullaby know that their lives would change forever due to an Orson Wells radio broadcast. It’s courage and chaos in Brave New Jersey.
There’s a lot of nervous fear in America that the Germans will force their country into World War II, but this small town of 500 goes about their business as usual. Clark Hill (Tony Hale) the happenstance Mayor of Lullaby makes his rounds, shopkeepers, wives, children and husbands get ready for the special day. Reverend Ray Rogers (Dan Bakkedahl) gives an early sermon and the day starts with the wealthy Paul Davison (Sam Jaeger) and his wife Lorraine (Heather Burns) visiting the General Store. Paul’s getting ready to unveil his Rotolactor a cow milking invention whereby he can milk several cows at one time at a special celebration.
But, on this Halloween night, the radio broadcasting network has scheduled a reading of “War of the Worlds” read by Orson Wells. Too busy with town stuff, Lullaby natives are not aware of the broadcast announcement that it is just a reading of the book. With a few people listening to the radio that hear Wells mention the Martians have landed only two hours away from their town and a confusion starts slowly and builds into chaos.
The film goes on from there as the townspeople find out just how their neighbors and friends really feel about each other. Director and co-writer Jody Lambert shows the town coming apart at the seams with relationships becoming strained, citizens arming themselves, a former Army Captain taking command and the Rotolactor out of control. Lambert works magic with the concept, that even though used before, his characters far outweigh previous productions.
A tip of the hat to Tony Hale (TV’s “Arrested Development”) who gives a cool performance as the disrespected town’s mayor who’s the thread that keeps all the action and laughter going to the final scene. He’s the sad sack who’s stuck in the small town and can’t come to grips with the chaos until he finds out the real make up of his townsfolk.
Also giving good performances, Heather Burns as Lorraine Davison the “Stepford” housewife and Anna Camp as Peg the spinster teacher, steal the show. Lorraine has been giving in to her demanding husband serving him as a faithful wife in all his endeavors, but this turn of events exposes an unexpected message. Burns handles the role with aplomb and makes one of the most important scenes work.
Camp turns the prissy and kind hearten Peg into a raving militant encouraging the rest of the town to fight on against the Martians. Her relationships get crisscrossed and her suitor finds out what the calm and collected fiancée is really like. She becomes the person most spinsters wish they were, but nearly destroys the town showing how.
Brave New Jersey has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains abusive language and some mild violence. Parental Guidance is suggested.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A cool film with good direction and plot.
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Tony Hale, Anna Camp, Sam Jaeger, Dan Bakkedahl, Heather Burns
Directed and co-written by: Jody Lambert
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains minor violence and language
Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.
Release Date: August 4, 2017
Distributed by: Gravitas Ventures
Released in: 2D Theatrical, and On Demand
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.