How to be Deadly is proof that in the right hands, you can make a great movie from a comedy sketch. The film is delightful, clever, and very funny.
Normally, the phrase – feature length comedy based off a YouTube persona – does not inspire confidence. After all, movies based on Saturday Night Live skits are usually worse than movies based on video games. How to Be Deadly is a welcome exception to this rule. The film joins Wayne’s World and The Blues Brothers as one of the few comedies that are better than their source material.
How to Be Deadly, based on the 2012 short film of the same name, is the story of Donnie Dumphy (Leon Parsons), a fictional cult hero, Canadian YouTube sensation, and the LeBron James of mini bike riding. Throughout the film Donnie and his entourage battle a rival mini-bike gang lead by his arch nemesis Versatchee (Robbie Caruthers) for fame, fortune and the heart of his beloved Brenda (played by Gina Squires).
How to Be Deadly is the impressive feature length directorial debut of Nik Sexton – best known as a producer on the comedy series The Rick Mercer Report. The movie is a brisk 88 minutes long, and it never drags. The cinematography is outstanding for a film with such a small budget. Unlike most comedies based on sketches, it has a real plot and not just a series of improvised comedy bits randomly thrown together.
The script, co-written by Sexton and Edward Riche (Rare Birds) is clever, rich in satire and contains numerous laugh-out-loud moments. The film is also an unapologetic love song about St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the humour works even for those that don’t understand Newfoundland slang.
Sexton produces some surprisingly good comedic performances out of a number of actors. The breakout stars are Gina Squires (Brenda) and Lisa Doucette (Trina) who have great chemistry with each other and deserve their own movie. Parsons has been playing the role of Donnie for almost a decade and slips into character like a comfortable shoe. Susan Kent is also excellent as the manic Debbie Stokes.
How to Be Deadly is a great Canadian indie comedy. The movie is charming and a must watch – even if you have never heard the name Donnie Dumphy before. Leon Parsons, Nik Sexton and company have come a long way from making YouTube skateboarding videos.