Directed and co-written by Jon Binkowski (Lisa Enos Smith was the other scribe on the project) Characterz is set in Florida theme park Old Time Fun Town and is an Indiegogo funded family comedy. Set in the world of “fuzzy” park characters and summertime jobs, the film has a cast full of familiar faces and voices.
Mitchel Musso (Monster House, Hannah Montana) stars as Tucker Ostrowski; recent junior college graduate and wannabe Disney theme park designer. Musso also narrates the film. Walt Willey (Tainted Dreams, All My Children) is Benjamin Fletcher the theme park director. Newcomers Miles D and Ana Eligio play Tucker’s new friend’s and colleagues Jerry and Samantha.
Veteran character actor Isaac C. Singleton Jr. plays Franklin Jefferson Washington (the new fuzzy whale and fellow character actor, the legendary, Felix Silla has a cameo as the park’s designer. Police Academy alumnus Michael Winslow plays a cop, of course, and The Moody Blues drummer and songwriter Graeme Edge has cameo in the comedy.
Another veteran performer makes an appearance; Leave It to Beaver regular Ken Osmond has a role as one of Samantha’s “children” Daniel.
Filmed at the Old Time Fun Town theme park this is funny family fare. The movie follows Tucker’s adventures as he learns how to be a “fuzzy” and his attempts to woo Samantha (Eligio). The first thing he learns it that the fuzzy characters are the very bottom of the food chain. Along the way he meets the residents at Sam’s “home” and he becomes inspired.
Both director Binkowski and producer Smith are self confessed “Theme Park Brats” who grew up in the industry and Binkowski’s first job was as a walrus fuzzy. There is a lot of love in this film for the amusement industry and it shows in the characters, the dialogue and he storyline.
Characterz is not hysterically funny but it is quirky and fun. The characters have been drawn so well that the audience fall in love with them all, even the villain. While watching the film do not be surprised to find yourself grinning throughout.
The plot has a satisfying twist to it and can be seen as a homage not just to the “fuzzy” characters but a nod to all those small theme parks that have disappeared from the landscape. (Parks like Dogpatch USA, for example, that briefly find a niche and then quietly close.)
Eligio is perfect as the “girl next door” that Tucker falls for and Miles D was brilliant as the ever optimistic Jerry. (On a sidenote: It was brilliant to see Michael Winslow again. The fact that he can still imitate all those sounds is beyond impressive.)
For anyone who has ever donned the skin, the memories will come flooding back. Characterz shows all the sweat and discomfort that the performers endure to please the crowds and the kids.
At 102 minutes the film is long, but never feels that way. It is a little slow paced but not too much. The characters and storyline are interesting enough to keep the viewer watching.
Characterz is a solid 4 star film for the family. It is cute, quirky fun and well worth watching when it comes out on 12 July via VoD. Smaller kids may find some of the jokes confusing but should find the fuzzy animals entertaining. Check it out, this movie will make you smile.