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Prince Avalanche is a whimsical Super Mario Bros

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There is something about the sheer size of America that I – as a born-and-bred Brit – can never fully appreciate. Acres of hills, plains and forests sheltering a million stories – where someone seeking solitude would barely brush the arm of another human being for hundreds of miles, if they so desired. Prince Avalanche is one of those quirky Americana pictures that conveys this sense of vast temperate space, punctuated with lingering images of light filtering through trees, ebbing streams and…wild donkeys.

Although based on an Icelandic movie (Either Way Prince Avalanche cannot be faulted for lack of originality. It’s a specific story of a two man road-marking crew – Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) whose  job is to mark country roads with yellow lines in 1988, following The Siege of 1987 – a series of huge forest fires spreading through California and Oregon. It’s difficult to make a film evocative of a specific decade when it’s set in the middle of nowhere, but director David Gordon Green does a fitting job here.

Prince Avalanche is dreamy in quality and funny but perhaps meandering in script. Alvin is dutiful and used to time alone as a man working for the greater good, whereas Lance is the American teenager who hasn’t yet matured, talking in slang, shirking work and getting it on with home town girls. Their gentle riling is comical, and the film explores the strange behaviours exhibited when people are faced with nothing but nature.

This is primarily a Rudd and Hirsch double-act, but my favourite character is Lance LeGault’s truck driver – he’s barely on screen, but his cheery lust for life and a penchant for moonshine won me over. And, more importantly, he asks questions about the sanity of Lance and Alvin – is he real or a manifestation of the type of person the forest fires destroyed?

The Nintendo Connection

I was pleased to see forum discussion on something that nagged my subconscious during the film. I think David Gordon Green is pulling my leg – this movie is a Scandinavian melodrama based on Mario and Luigi! With two men of the eighties dressed in denim dungarees, some epic moustaches and a sequence involving stepping over  a squished turtle, Prince Avalanche has a strange sense of humour.

Gordon Green is most famous for making The Pineapple Express and Your Highness, so stoner movie lovers will like this outing, but be prepared for a more subtle and less stupid vehicle. It’s best to emphasise that not a whole lot happens in Prince Avalanche – that’s the Icelandic minimalism at work. At times it gets a little ‘cinematographic love letter to the trees’. But it never gets boring, with all of these odd little moments to ponder.

An indie art-house piece with a story that doesn’t immediately demand viewing, Prince Avalanche depicts a funny, unusual time with joy. You might not fancy rolling about in a forest covered in yellow paint and drowning in vodka, but you could do worse than this compelling movie. The pared-down bare-bonedPrince Avalanche is pretty good.

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