Andy (Denny) is driving east from Los Angeles to honor her father’s final request: she will scatter his ashes at various points en route to Austin, then give whatever’s left of his remains to her mother, a recent recovering addict who lives there with her sponsor. This difficult task is somewhat lightened by the presence of high school chum Liv (Sarah Hagan), an actress with an audition in Austin, and her dog, Chloe, who offer support, insight and excessively cute close up shots (of Chloe, not Liv).
And it could have been so beautiful, too. The spectacular vistas of the southwest – striated mountains, scrubby green bushes that set off the red of the desert rocks, sloping white sand dunes and powder blue skies filled with puffy clouds – are captured with understated elegance by cinematographer Will Basanta and initiate a celebration of untouched wilderness that, sadly, doesn’t make it past the first act. Amidst the main storyline about dealing (or not dealing) with death was the potential for an interesting commentary on man versus nature and where the two meet. But that chance is squandered when endless shots of Andy and Liv inside the car with their hair blowing dramatically out the window are favored instead. Grieving is a process, and while that process can be gradual and introspective, the excess of these qualities in a static, ugly location (like a car) is incredibly alienating. Denny is working out her pain onscreen, and though that event has massive capacity for creative impact, its overpowering presence instead leads to a result that’s painful to watch.
The source of the elongated title is revealed when Andy quotes her father, a Vietnam vet. When she was younger, he would tell her, "killing someone was the most fun he ever had with his pants on." Liv, responding to her friend’s laughter at the irreverent story, says, "that’s messed up." Though small, this interchange is crucial in establishing the women’s personae: the reactionary and the conciliatory traditionalist, the "bad girl" and the "good girl," diametrically opposed from the outset. Andy has always been difficult, lashing out against her strict father and absentee mother with piercings, tattoos and criminal behavior; despite Sapphic proclivities, she makes quick friends with local boys in a rundown bar. Liv, on the other hand, is prim and virginal (she has a large-eyed, purse-sized pooch for crying out loud), and even a dare won’t make her behave badly. Her attempts at seduction and shoplifting fall so flat, and Andy’s glee in challenging her to be rebellious is so foreseeably antagonistic, that they do little to shade either character with complexity or surprise.
'Fun Pants,' which also sports hints of "Easy Rider" and "Thelma and Louise" – but without the knowable camaraderie or dramatic payoffs of either – has a promising dual buddy film-road movie premise, but fails to deliver anything exciting or original along the way. The trope of self-discovery in the desert wears thin quickly, and the parade of knitted brows, teary eyes and pouty mouths, set to solar flares and blowing winds, does nothing to make it last longer. 'Fun Pants' concludes precisely where you think it will, but long after you’re done with the journey. [C-]