By: BabyRuth’s tramp-stamped clone (Six Pack) –
As we await Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle, which James Nguyen is apparently still trying to make (sadly without much luck in the financing department), there is a new-to-us release from the Master of Romantic Thrillers™ to hold everyone over.
Nguyen’s long lost second film, Replica is finally available to the viewing public, despite his disappointment with the final product:
“Replica was never released, and I wasn’t very happy with it. I kind of look at it as a very expensive storyboarding experience. One day I hope to remake it. I learned a lot on that film in terms of casting. Part of the reason people like Birdemic: Shock and Terror a lot is due to the casting. I really messed up on the casting on Replica, so that’s why I took so much time to do it properly for Birdemic: Shock and Terror.”
That’s right! It was the acting that just wasn’t up to par!
But he’s got a point; not everything can be as good as this. (Though Replica has two of the same cast members as Birdemic, three if you count Tippi Hendren’s Julie and Jack footage on a TV screen, which Nguyen, of course, does.
Replica was even referenced in Birdemic 2 as the main character’s early movie that “fell apart.”
Just when it seemed all hope was lost and Replica would be permanently filed away in the never-to-be-seen abyss next to that Jerry Lewis Holocaust clown movie, sometime in the last few months Nguyen had a change of heart (a.k.a. was in need of some cash) and made a deal with Rifftrax, who recently released the film on their website. You can get it here. A Riffed version has been available since February 10th. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you don’t even have to part with eight bucks! And it’s only an hour and six minutes. So no excuses!
While Birdemic is “School of Hitchcock” graduate Nguyen’s homage to The Birds, Replica is his take on Vertigo. There’s even a reenactment of the bell tower chase. Oh yes. But Replica has a scientific twist.
Joe Thomas (John David Braddock), who makes his living as a (can you guess?) computer chip salesman, is the recent transplant recipient of a lab-grown kidney. Since his operation, he’s been having trouble making his sales quota. But then he falls in love with a pretty blonde and there’s a dating montage and… oh geez, do I need to continue? James Nguyen has a formula and he does not deviate from it dammit!
So anyway, the “lucky” girl just happens to be Joe’s doctor and bio-geneticist extraordinaire, Dr. Evelyn Tyler (Lana Dykstra) who must have been some kind of Doogie Howser prodigy because she looks about 20 years old. (Just you wait for the line delivery of “These synthetic genetically-engineered stem cells made of nanotech materials could be directed and programmed to differentiate between the organ cells and culture growths that form into the liver, kidneys, uh, other organs, the spinal cords, even the heart!”)
Dr. Barbie, I mean Evelyn, co-founded Therapeutic Technology, a biotech company that is totally an elaborate set and definitely not a green screen, where she and her team are doing amazing work growing human organs. But in the wrong hands this research could be dangerous. What could Evelyn’s boss and wine label owner, Dr. G, yes his name is Dr. G, possibly need to buy 50 million nanochips (and not one less!) from Joe for?
There is love. There is loss. There is driving. This is Replica.
The opening sequence of DNA graphics is pretty cool in a Windows 95 screensaver kind of way. Nguyen really should pay that guy his $500.00.
Rick Camp (you may remember him as Dr. Jones in the Birdemic films) gives the performance of a lifetime as the evil Dr. G. Seriously, he is ah-MAZING. There are jazz hands.
(Fun Fact: while browsing his IMDB, I finally found a link between Birdemic and The Room. Both Rick Camp and Greg Sestero were uncredited extras in the funeral scene in Patch Adams. BOOM!)
Also turning in a star-making (not really) performance is David Nguyen as a badass detective (not really). Hmm, I wonder if he could possibly be somehow related to James…
Speaking of, let’s take a look at this film’s credits.
Nguyen wisely figured out that including video footage of well-known actors within a movie could make it look like they are actually in YOUR movie! Well done! (Just be sure to spell their name correctly if you’re going to go through all that effort.) Also it’s kind of messed up that he doesn’t bother to give a credit to Nathalie from Birdemic’s mom who also plays Evelyn’s mom in this film in an almost verbatim and completely unnecessary flashback scene of a daughter gushing about her new boyfriend. And yup, Nguyen makes a cameo as “himself,” even though he plays one of Joe’s co-workers.
Now that I can refer to myself as School of Nguyen graduate (since I’ve seen all of his films several times), I have realized something: He has semi-decent concepts.
Where are you going?
No, stay with me here a minute…
Look, no one can ever accuse this guy of not being ambitious. Adding a modern twist to a classic, such as paying tribute to The Birds while incorporating a moral message about global warming or crossing the plot of Vertigo with one about the ethical dangers of human cloning technology, are not terrible ideas in and of themselves. They’re kind of, and I’m not even drunk right now, clever. Again, I am referring to the concepts. Of course everything (hilariously) falls apart in the execution beginning with the first keystroke of the screenplay due to Nguyen’s boundless incompetence in filmmaking and lack of understanding of basic human interaction. It’s like Black Mirror written by a socially-awkward fourth-grader. (Speaking of, Julie and Jack predates Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” episode by over a decade. Watch both and tell me it is not essentially the same, freaking, exact story right down to the big reveal. Seriously, that blew my damn mind.)
Joe (you know, our hero?) is a super duper creeper. He stalks Evelyn by showing up on her jogging route and hitting on her. After she brushes him off, he follows her in his car, almost hitting her for real (FORESHADOWING ALERT!) and demands she go out to dinner with him. She rejects his invitation and runs away.
Still not getting a hint, Joe calls her. She immediately tells him, again, that she is busy (pronounced “bee-you-zee”- One take is fiiine) but he persists and persists until she eventually agrees.
I’ve seen this movie twice now and this is probably my favorite scene. The stumbling over lines, the awkward pauses, and especially the extremely loud bird screeching right in the middle of it that made me jump out of my seat. That moment was scarier than the actual bird attack in Birdemic.
It ends with Joe pitching a tent. (or at least looks like it) (he totally is)
The fact that all of his male protagonists are some degree of a Creepy McCreeperson makes me wonder about James Nguyen since it is obvious he bases his male leads on himself (computer salesman, movie director). Rod in Birdemic followed Nathalie, twice. Jack in Julie and Jack tracked down everyone in Julie’s life after she ghosted him. The guy in Birdemic 2 (I’m too lazy to look up the characters’ names) basically casting-couched that actress girl. And Joe in this movie is the absolute worst of all of them. But the troubling part is that this is what Nguyen’s idea of a charming leading man is. Just nag and nag until she finally breaks down and then immediately falls in love with you over a bland conversation about your professions and hobbies. It’s weird. And icky.
I mean check out this bit of dialogue in Replica. It’s a “clever” nod to Nguyen’s first film Julie and Jack, but note that last line.
“Hey, I just left the audition and guess what? I got the lead in Julie and Jack. The director really liked me. He kept staring at me.”
She’s referring to Nguyen himself. He wrote that line. About himself. In his mind, that is a compliment. Eesh.
The first half of Replica consists of the romant-ick courtship of Rod and Nathalie, Julie and Jack, Joe and Evelyn.
Cue the overlong walking hand-in-hand scenes!
Cue the beach!
Cue the dinner discussing their jobs and stock options!
Cue awful “sexy” banter like:
“I like your prescription.”
“I like filling it.”
Cue bathing suit sex scene!
Cue me getting another drink.
Here comes a big spoiler alert. Stop reading if you don’t want to know.
There is a tragic car accident. It’s enough to scare me from ever accelerating over 4MPH ever again. Because one mile over that and it’s lights out forever!
Farewell, Dr. Barbie. Or is it???
Joe meets stalks Claudia, who bears a striking resemblance to but is totally not Evelyn. Really, she’s a brunette and even has a tramp stamp of her name to prove it!
She also wants nothing to do with him, but wouldn’tchaknow ol’ lurky Joe creepily follows her to her hotel and guilts her into going out with him.
This leads to, oh god, another dating montage.
I can’t, Nguyen! I can’t do this anymore.
When confronting an evil doctor who has created a human cloning laboratory using exactly 50 million nanochips it’s best to devise a plan that consists of a little more than showing up at the evil doctor’s totally unnecessarily green-screened office and saying “We’re here to destroy your human cloning laboratory.” I mean, I’ve never been in that kind of situation before, but it just seems like there are probably better ways to go about doing such a thing.
They had a whole hour-long car ride to figure something out and that was the best they could come up with. Honestly, I was rooting for Dr. G. Dr. G was awesome.
This is a must for James Nguyen completists. Watch this right now!
Replica (2005) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: at every mention of the Nano 3000
Take a Drink: BIRDS!
Take a Drink: for every celebrity who appears on a TV (and therefore is listed in the credits as if they star in this movie) Take Two: for Tippi Hedren.
Take a Drink: same house, different movie!
Take a Drink: driving
Take a Drink: whenever anyone stumbles over a line of dialogue (One take is good enough!)
Take a Drink: awkward walking
Take a Drink: stalking
Take a Drink: GREEN SCREEN!
Take a Drink: large, round amounts of money
Take a Drink: whenever a female character attempts to get away from creepy Joe
Do a Shot: Julie & Jack shoutout!
Do a Shot: Payless Shoesource!
Do a Shot: if/when you recognize a line from another Nguyen movie (for experts only)
Do a Shot: James Nguyen cameo!
Do a Shot: whenever there is an actor from Birdemic.
Chug: during overlong dating montages