Palo Alto, Ca.


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Four college freshmen, who were friends in a suburban high school, return to their home town from four different locations for their first Thanksgiving as college guys. They pull a prank together, then separate for the night to have their own adventures. The tone of the film shifts, often in unpredictable steps, from comedy to drama to sentimental romance.

There are some things to critique in this movie, and I will do that in a bit, but in the long run those criticisms are not very important for two reasons:

(1) Overall, I enjoyed the movie very much, and there are many positives. To wit:

* The four story lines are interesting, and the editing is slick, so the individual adventures are interwoven seamlessly and cleverly into a clear narrative.

* There are poignant moments, and good laughs.

* The performances are almost uniformly excellent, The director even pulled a good performance out of Tom Arnold!

* The musical score works perfectly.

* I enjoyed the complex characters, and the writer/director packed a tremendous amount of character development into a short film that takes place on a single night.

(2) The guy who directed and co-wrote this film was only 21 years old at the time! What is particularly impressive about that is that he managed to get a lot accomplished without dialogue - with uncomfortable silences, facial expressions, and other elements of visual storytelling. This movie is as professionally presented as any big-budget studio film which covers the same territory. This kid has it.

Having noted that, I should be fair to you readers and note that the film is not without its faults.

(1) There is a gratuitous lesbian scene which is completely unbelievable within the story line. Wait! Am I listing that under bad things? Perhaps I should expand the point by saying that this was one of several examples where the authors weren't sure how to make major shifts from reality to fantasy and/or from drama to comedy. In this case, I just didn't buy into the undeveloped female characters, who came out of left field to use their girl/girl action to seduce one of our heroes and his little brother. It wasn't at all clear why they would do such a thing, and as a result they didn't seem like real characters, but objectified male fantasies. In fact, I originally thought it was supposed to be a fantasy sequence, and that the brothers would awake from a drunken dream. I was later surprised to see that it all really happened.

(2) Far too many dramatic developments happen in one night, and for too many coincidences are used to advance the plot. This bothered me at first, but I am withdrawing my objection. I eventually realized that it was all done in the interest of developing four stories simultaneously. Given my opinion that the film succeeded in telling all four stories economically, I have no choice but to concede that the contrived plotting is an example of necessary artistic license.

(3) This territory and these characters are very familiar to those who have seen a lot of movies. It's not an intensely personal film, but a generic coming-of-age story. You can probably determine from my comments that Palo Alto, Ca is not the kind of film you would expect from a guy who is young enough to be in school. It has neither the usual negatives nor the usual positives of youthful indie filmmaking. It's mostly "feel good"; it does not attack any "big ideas" intensely; it is not so personal as to be uncommercial; and there are no lesbian cowboys eating pudding. It's more like a Cameron Crowe movie.

One thing surprises me - the lack of a theatrical release. It seems like a studio film - slick and professional in every way. The authors seem to understand the youthful target audience, and I can see where this would be a good date movie. Palo Alto, Ca is not just a precocious work from a youngster. It is a winner that is capable of connecting to mainstream suburban audiences. Oh, well. Irrespective of the logic behind the lack of theatrical distribution, I think you will see excellent movies from Brad Leong for many years to come.


* widescreen anamorphic








No major reviews online.


7.0 IMDB summary (of 10)





Straight from Tribeca to DVD.





Christina Derosa and Hailey Bright are topless (and kissing) as a prelim to seducing the brothers.






Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is top-notch genre fare, unbelievably assured from a 21-year-old director.