Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God... Be Back By Five is a movie with many highs and some unfortunate lows. It was directed by Richard Schenkman and writen/produced by Jon Cryer and Schenkman. All in all, it’s a good independent film but not as good the typical Sundance winners.
The story is based on some of Jon Cryer's personal experiences, an alcoholic friend on Coney Island that he had to rescue and a childhood friend that was living homeless in Central Park.
The main characters, Stan (Rick Stear) and Daniel (Jon Cryer), have been the best of friends since childhood, and they used to have this secret phrase “on a mission from God” whenever they decided to skip class. They weren’t necessarily troublemakers; they just weren’t enthused by school. Instead, in high school, they hung out on Coney Island and smoked pot with their friends. Unfortunately their lack of interest in school resulted in uninteresting careers. Stan ends up working in a pizzeria, a job he likes because of all the free beer, and Daniel does something that involves metals and dangerous chemicals. Although his job is not technically defined, it obviously sucks… But all of this is amusing dialogue used as an introduction.
The film's actual plot begins when Stan comes and tells Daniel that a long lost friend, Richie (Rafael Baez), was spotted on Coney Island. Apparently Richie was seen picking up trash, most likely abandoned dolls, and acting somewhat crazy. Even though he has been homeless for quite some time (he was spotted weeks ago), the friends decide that they must go get him right away…and skip work. It’s an emergency!! The movie’s first flaw. Leaving work wasn’t exactly necessary, but it allows Stan to use the phrase, “mission from God,” to get Daniel out of work.
From there, the movie doesn’t seem to be written very well (at least for a little while). It’s good… just not GREAT. I excited to see the subway scenes, which were filmed illegally without a permit. The whole film is very grainy and indie, but the subway scenes are especially bumpy and look like home video quality. It looks real! The characters are also very real. They are not pretty. They are average guys, and they act their parts well. One complaint that I do have is the frequent flashbacks. When they get to Coney Island, every game, every half-witty phrase, and every somewhat thought provoking question results in a flashback. Normally I like flashbacks, but these ones don’t do much for the plot. Although some may be entertaining, they are not needed. They are only filler for an otherwise weak plot.
However, they do run into some interesting characters on the abandoned island (the movie takes place in winter). They play skee-ball and converse with my second favorite character, the “Skee-Ball Weasel”. The skee-ball scene is great and full of bullshit (though entertaining) philosophies… until Stan gets overly dramatic and starts tearing up the place for no obvious reason. A cheap ring was it?! He wanted the weasel to spot him a ticket so he could get his girlfriend (Ione Skye) an adjustable bufferfly ring.
Another wonderful part ruined by cheap script writing is of Maurice at the almost empty hot dog bar. Maurice is an ingenious character with wonderful lines (his part was written especially well). He’s an old guy and looks like a bum… even though he’s not. He is a whine-o though and would be more appropriately placed in a bar. He cries and whimpers about his lost love, Julie, and is very entertaining… But soon Julie comes, just for the sake of being absurd I would guess, and all of Maurice’s problems are fixed. Why don’t I like this, you ask? It makes no sense! Although he was on the phone with Julie five minutes beforehand (on a payphone just outside of the restaurant), how did Julie know where to go?! And how did Julie get there so fast?! Does Julie live on Coney Island? Nope. Doesn’t make any sense…
Maurice is an essential character though. He points the boys in the right direction. They play some bumper cars, and Stan gets over-dramatic for some awkward reason once again. The dramatic acting is not bad. It’s actually quite good, but it always occurs at strange times. Stan just explodes at the drop of a dime… just ‘cause.
Well, they eventually find Richie, and he is by far the best character. I recognize Rafael Baez from somewhere, but I forget where… he’s a genius (at least as Richie anyway)! I won’t ruin the ending… you can find out for yourself. I will tell you this though, the movie improves as it progresses. It’s like watching the progression of Jon Cryer’s script writing skills. The movie starts out slow and awkward, and ends on a mature note that concludes all loose ends... go rent it.
"It's the household magic of ordinary days. The whole world turns and doesn't make a sound. Caterpillars become butterflies, and can openers become wire hangers. And when you’re not lookin’—just minding your own business—the biggest stuff happens…”