I'm very fond of dysfunctional family comedies -- Home for the Holidays, Slums of Beverly Hills, and even the ultra-dark Where's Poppa? are all films I've enjoyed. So it was disappointing to discover that the Canadian dysfunctional family film The Hamster Cage, which played at Fantastic Fest this week, was only sporadically funny or entertaining.
The Hamster Cage is an over-the-top attempt at dark comedy: a family reunites for a special dinner to celebrate the father winning the Nobel Prize. As daughter Lucy (Jillian Fargey) and son Paul (Tom Scholte) enter their parents' home, we notice that Mom (Patricia Dahlquist) doesn't talk to Lucy, and Paul avoids Dad (Alan Scarfe) but engages in overly long embraces with his Mom. When Lucy learns that Uncle Stan (Scott Hylands) is expected, she flies into a rage. Uncle Stan shows up with Candy (Carly Pope), a 22-year-old writer dressed like a 12-year-old, and a stack of presents. You know how relatives sometimes use gifts as sly weapons to hurt or embarrass family members? Uncle Stan's gifts take that to extremes.