Jack Be Nimble
13 Feb 2022
Bae Ling, Vernon Wells, Steve Silver, Brent Moorer Gaskins, Elizabeth Gribbon McCullough
In Steve Wollett’s rough but very likeable Jack Be Nimble, a group of old-school D&D players long past their prime find themselves living out the remainder of their days trapped in a two-bit retirement home, rolling dice as the days roll by and cursing all the “joys” of growing old. But when one of the old timers discovers that a demon is taking the souls of the other residents, they are about to embark on one last big adventure together to save the day.
All cards, dice and spell books on the table from the start, Jack Be Nimble is not going to be a film for everyone. For the first third of the film, it’s hard to keep a handle of what’s going. The film jumps around a lot, and takes a while to find its feet and it’s that lack of coherence that can and will be a bit off putting for some. It’s also a film that’s hammy as all hell from start to finish, with all the appropriate performances and set pieces to go along with it, some of which hit the mark more than others.
But for those willing to enjoy Jack Be Nimble for what it is, the end result can be quite rewarding, and a good time can definitely be had. Yes, the film does amble around rather weirdly until around the half hour mark but then the plot points of the story begin to fall into place and things start to make a lot more sense. And while there are still a lot of nonsensical WTF moments to be experienced still, it’s straightening up here allows one finally to get their teeth into what’s going on and begin rooting for our heroes. Ultimately, it’s a film that shows a lot of heart and good intention, a unique tale of the battle between good and evil determined to remind its audience that you’re never too old for an adventure.
The second act is where the performances also step up a gear as well. Bae Ling, a powerhouse of an actress with a list of roles longer than both arms, absolutely steals the show as the retirement home nurse/demon struggling with her own inner conflict and delightfully going all in during the films wildly over the top moments. And Wells, whose credits are just as long and impressive, clearly relishes the role of the rudely abrasive curmudgeon determined to expose her and when the two collide in the final act, it’s electric and enthralling to watch.
The rest of the cast do enough, hit their marks and provide some laughs but a few could be found guilty of a lack of conviction in their deliveries. It doesn’t help perhaps that the writing isn't the sharpest when it comes to dialogue but what is evident and important is you can tell the cast are loving every minute of it. In fact, you get the sense that the primary directive on set was “just have fun”. And considering the film had to battle pandemic-imposed restrictions like so many others, what we get isn’t too bad at all really.
With points for originality, Wollett and co. have managed to put together a story of resilience in the face of adversity that despite being a little rough around the edges, is crazy and fun enough to go along with and put a smile on your face.
And what’s wrong with that?