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Described as an action, comedy, romance, and sci-fi film, The History of Future Folk is quite ambitious for such a small production. However, as opposed to some Hollywood blockbusters, Future Folk mostly succeeds at what it aims to achieve.
We meet up with our protagonist, Bill, as he puts his daughter to bed with a story he’s told her many times before. The inhabitants of planet Hondo are doomed when they discover an asteroid will collide with them. As a boy, Trius makes a promise to his mother to save all Hondonians. Lo and behold Trius becomes an acclaimed general and is on the verge of releasing a deadly virus on Earth to prep it for the Hondonian invasion when something stops him. While Hondonians had been capable of intergalactic travel, never in their existence had anyone created music. Trius is so enchanted by the aural magic that he decides he cannot destroy a race capable of such a beautiful creation. He becomes a rocket scientist/musician, settles down in Brooklyn, and starts a new life and family under the pseudonym Bill.
That might have been the extent of Bill’s adventures were it not for a whole planet of Hondonians that were left feeling betrayed. Several years later, an Hondonian assassin lands on Earth to finish off Trius and the original mission. Fortunately for Trius, Kevin is not much of an assassin, and he’s just as easily won over by music. What follows is the tale of their budding friendship as they strive to save two planets AND win over the hearts of their respective ladies, all while making music.
The History of Future Folk is clearly a small film with a small budget, but it mostly handles that aspect smartly. It is a tad disappointing to only hear of Hondo in passing reference and through the hand-drawn depictions of an eight-year old child. Hondo simply never feels like a fully realized planet or alien race. A few of the action set pieces also feel slightly off due to an unfortunate choice in a generic, action soundtrack. That being said, I prefer this much more than any attempt at shoddy CGI graphics. Anyone with a love for camp will still enjoy all of this. Furthermore, despite these shortcomings, The History of Future Folk has a lot going for it. The editing is very smart. It manages to mix all of its genres together due in part to the way that it intercuts action scenes with romantic ones. The story has charm, and a definite sense of risk. What really makes this movie good is the actors and the music.
The entire leading cast fills their role exceedingly well. Nils d’Aulaire’s performance is very bare bones. You definitely get the sense that he is not a formally trained actor. But just like Jerry in Seinfeld, it works. Jay Klaitz as Kevin is a perfect foil to d’Aulaire’s austere Bill. He’s animated. He’s goofy. He’s fun to watch. The two female leads played by Julie Ann-Emery and April L. Hernandez are great. They do a lot of heavy lifting, and thanks to their perfect expressions are able to make a lot of the romantic scenes work, even when they shouldn’t. Case in point: Kevin is so smitten by NYC cop Carmen (Hernandez) that at one point he stuns her with his laser gun so that he can serenade her before she gets the chance to arrest him. The entire scene might have come off as creepy and uncomfortable with its hostage/victim undertones, but Hernandez deftly portrays all the right feelings of fear, compassion, and interest with her eyes.
Definitely the best part of the film is the music. Nils d’Aulaire might have slightly weak acting chops, but he can really wow on a banjo. Klaitz likewise is impressive on the guitar and vocals. Watching The History of Future Folk really made me appreciate how rare it is to have an actual musician on film. You simply cannot fake it. It added authenticity, and seeing those fingers strum away at a banjo was delightful. Even more delightful were the songs. They were witty and easy on the ears. I liked them so much it made me wish that the movie was a fully fledged musical. But – there’s more than enough in The History of Future Folk to leave you satisfied.