‘Searching for Sonny’ is a hilarious comedy that follows reunited friends, Elliott (Jason Dohring), Calvin (Nick Kocher), and Eden (Minka Kelly), who find themselves chief suspects in a murder mystery at their ten-year high school reunion. Ironically, the events surrounding the disappearance of their friend Sonny (Masi Oka), is reminiscent of a high school play they once performed, coincidentally written by Sonny himself. Deception leads to scandal and the truth surfaces as the friends learn that shady businessmen and school officials are involved in a complex scheme of money and murder.
Everybody loves a high school reunion, right? Film makers certainly do and they use that backdrop at every opportunity it seems. Searching for Sonny is the latest film to attempt to use the premise and it has varying levels of success. On the one hand, the movie introduces some interesting angles and features. On the other hand, it is supposed to be a comedy but falls woefully short in that area most of the time. Still, the movie has enough redeeming qualities to make one excited for the future with director Andrew Disney. You can tell he has an eye for angles and filmmaking that is simply waiting on the right script, situation and story.
The movie features the beautiful Minka Kelly (star of Friday Night Lights and Charlie’s Angels) and that alone is worth the price of admission. Kelly is a wonderful actress that has truly grown into her abilities onscreen. Less exciting is the primary character Elliot. (Jason Dohring) Elliot is a guy that is getting older and is feeling thirty approaching fast. Because of this, he is beginning to panic a bit inside. Then along comes his ten year reunion and a weird message from his old buddy Sonny. Upon arriving home in Texas, he gets back in touch with all the usual suspects. There is the brother (Nick Kocher), the nerd (Brian McElhaney) and the beauty queen (Kelly) that he was always in love with but who married the jock instead. Now that all of the clichés are in place, the movie can begin, right?
From here, the absurd becomes even more absurd, but it oddly keeps your attention. Elliot flashes back to high school where he feels guilty about manipulating Sonny’s play so that he could kiss Eden on stage. This somehow makes him feel responsible to find his friend when Sonny goes missing. Ironically, however, Sonny is living his play in real life in many ways as life parallels art. (or some such nonsense) Once you get done mentally processing that, the Jock that Eden married dies from what appears to be a suicide. Signs point to Eden’s dad and the school principle which makes for a fairly interesting story, although rather convoluted.
Despite a rather inane script, Disney is impressive with how he styles the movie. It is always a pleasure to look at and he does a wonderful job of going back and forth to tell the story. The primary problems with the movie appear to be in the lesser actors and actresses. Dohring does a serviceable job as the silly man in the lead role, but his surrounding cast often appears bored. Kelly, and Oki as Sonny are both very good in their roles, but the rest of the cast is not very effective at moving between comedy and drama. This causes some jokes to fall flat and some plot twists to go unnoticed.
While this particular movie did not hit the homerun that he was looking for, it is clear that Disney is a star on the rise. If he can get the right situation in place, his star will shoot through the moon. Sonny is not a total failure by a longshot as there are several things done very right. Visually it is advanced in some ways and the comedy is hit or miss. Given a top notch cast, I truly believe that Disney will put out movies that will lead the way for the future. A great effort here, but it comes up short in ways that could not really be helped short of scrapping the script.