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D: Jason Headley / 81m

Cast: Matt Jones, Eleanore Pienta, Will Rogers, Jonny Mars, Jennymarie Jemison, Sam Eidson

In Jason Headley’s very amusing feature debut, he introduces us to Marlon (Jones) and Leo (Rogers) as they sit in a diner and discuss the various places they can rob. Right away we know that they aren’t the brightest of potential thieves as they’re sitting in a diner discussing their plans where anyone can hear them. They bat ideas back and forth before Leo announces that he’s found somewhere, a house where the owners will be away for a while, and that he knows how to get into. Marlon is surprised but willing to go along with Leo’s suggestion. That night, they put Leo’s plan into action. But the first of several obstacles they’ll face presents itself when Leo reveals that the house is part of a gated community. Still proving that their I.Q.’s are probably lower than their shoe sizes, the pair persuade a pizza delivery driver to let them hide in the trunk of his car and get onto the estate that way. That obstacle overcome, Leo uses the key he knows will be hidden outside to gain entry. But Marlon decides to play with the house alarm, and ends up arming it, leaving them trapped inside. Deciding to go ahead with the robbery and work out a solution to the alarm later, two things soon become very apparent indeed: one, Leo knows way too much about the house and its owners than he should, and two, they’re not alone…

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is a comedy of errors that finds inventive yet credible ways in which to make things more and more difficult for its two protagonists, and the unexpected housesitter, Darcy (Pienta), they find upstairs in one of the bedrooms. Some of these problems are worse than others and some are more casually signposted by Headley, but they all conspire to make the movie an enjoyable romp and spin on the humble home invasion movie. By making Marlon and Leo less than brilliant in the planning and executing stakes, many of the obstacles they face are the result of their own incompetence, or more particularly, Leo holding back some hugely relevant information about the house they’re attempting to rob. Add in the complication of Darcy’s presence and the uneasy truce that they arrive at in attempting to solve all their issues – Darcy isn’t completely honest with Marlon and Leo; not at first, anyway – and you have a quirky, sometimes surreal comedy that is brisk, clever, and which features three very good performances from Jones, Pienta and Rogers.

Headley makes sure that all three characters are gifted with some very witty dialogue, and though we only get to know a few things about them – Marlon is obsessed with landing a big payday, Leo has ex-girlfriend issues, Darcy is shadier than she appears – within the confines of the house and the scenario, Headley is right not to give the audience too much in the way of back stories. The plot plays out smoothly, with each twist and turn feeling like a logical extension of the one that’s gone before, and by the time a community security guard (Mars) arrives on the scene, the movie has successfully and somewhat easily become such an enjoyable experience that a late injection of sentimentality – unnecessary but not surprising given the connections made between the trio – is unable to derail things. Headley mixes daft humour with broad farce to good effect and there’s a warmth towards the characters that allows for a great deal of sympathy for them and their predicament. It’s a lightweight concoction at times, but in a good way, and one that will have you smiling throughout and laughing out loud on more occasions than you’d expect.

Rating: 8/10 – a low budget indie comedy with smarts, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong has its own offbeat sensibility, and offers a reminder that more mainstream comedies can only dream that they could be this well put together; touching in places, absurdist in others, yet consistently amusing and appealing, it’s another of the many “unsung heroes” of 2017.