Andrew_semifinalist_onthelot_240FOX’s On the Lot is down to five filmmakers, one of whom is going to receive a million dollar desk in some dark corner of the DreamWorks office. Shouldn’t they be better than this?

Tuesday (July 31) night’s show begins with the rapid elimination of Andrew Hunt, whose superhero film was one of last week’s lesser efforts.

Then host Adrianna Costa announces that this is Road Week and that last week’s Box Office winner (a concept that’s mostly been irrelevant on this show) gets the distinct honor of working with Jerry O’Connell.

Jason Epperson gets the prize, which prompts Will Bigham to observe, "If you blow it with him in your movie, you blow it big time…" Like Tomcats. Or Body Shots. Or Kangaroo Jack. Or Buying the Cow. Or Mission to Mars. Or Joe’s Apartment.

This week’s films (for those transfixed by Adrianna’s exposed cleavage):

Adam_semifinalists_onthelot_240Driving Under the Influence (Adam Stein)- Remember Adam’s "Dance Man" film from the one-minute comedy week? Remember Adam’s "Dough: The Musical" from the following week? Remember the Ford commercials that this silly show has been foisting on us week in and week out? What if all three of those things had a cinematic baby? It would look like "Driving Under the Influence." Adam’s film is bright and cheery and spirited, but if I’m being honest, the pieces don’t really add up for me. Why would the main character use his magical stereo to flee the cops? Why is it OK for him to whack a cop in the head with his car door just because its set to music? And what sense did the kiss at the end make as a punchline for the entire story? And why does he not use a crane to get a single wide shot of the musical number at the conclusion? I feel about Adam’s film the way I feel about the Red Sox trading for Eric Gagne — on the surface it seems good, but when you did deep, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. Tonight’s guest judge, Gary Ross, is one of the first guest judges I genuinely respect, though he called Adam’s film charming and ambitious. Meanwhile, Penny Marshall is sitting in for Garry this week and we’ll have to see if anybody notices the difference.

Backseat Driving Test (Sam Friedlander)- Credit Sam for resisting the urge to cast a shiny new Ford as his main character. But if there were any laughs through the entire movie from the crowd, I sure couldn’t hear them. The film, quite frankly, just isn’t even vaguely funny because its central premise isn’t funny. Some Australian guy proves to backseat drivers that there’s nothing to be worried about by driving them around in circles in some remote location? Come on. That’s not even worth a chuckle and Sam wastes several of this season’s most reliable comic performers. The only one of the judges who didn’t love the film is Gary, but although his critiques are negative, he still says Sam did really, really well. I’m not sure why we’re coddling the contestants.

Zach_semifinalist_onthelot_240The Bonus Feature II (Zach Lipovsky)- "There’s a big risk doing a sequel to a film that pretty much almost sent me home," Zach says. And boy is he right. This is like Daddy Day Camp. It’s bad enough we had to watch the first movie, but surely a sequel was even less necessary. If Zach goes home this week, he has only himself to blame. The sequel makes no sense without the context of the first movie and it doesn’t fulfill the week’s Road theme at all, using the car as a stagnant prop. Zach opens the story up a bit, but it’s odd that despite the fine action choreography of his earlier office film, Zach doesn’t even stage a good swordfight. The romantic moment at the end would have been cute if he hadn’t ruined it with an unnecessary Casablanca reference. Is there any chance that we can get leading lady Erin Cahill some better work after this show is over? She’s been one of the On the Lot bright spots. The judges know that Zach is the only potential winner they can show Spielberg with a straight face, so they just nod and drink the Kool Aid.

The Move (Jason Epperson)- This is the biggest waste of Jerry O’Connell’s, um, unique gifts until this fall’s ABC semi-comedy Carpoolers (conveniently and incestuously a DreamWorks TV co-production). It’s an elaborate set-up for a punchline that both isn’t related to the set-up and isn’t at all funny. The dialogue between Jerry — playing a character conveniently named "Jerry," just like Tony Danza loves to play "Tony" — and his buddy is so invested in misdirection that it becomes confusing if you think back on it. It’s like "Knock knock …" "Who’s there?" "To get to the other side." In order for a shaggy dog story like this to work, something in the set-up has to be entertainment so that viewers aren’t just twiddling their thumbs waiting for the reveal. The judges all made accurate points about the bungled storytelling, though Penny Marshall may be showcasing the reasons she doesn’t work more.

Will_semifinalist_onthelot_240Road Rage 101 (Will Bigham)- Well, my expectations are really low after the first four films of the night, but this is yet another disappointment. It’s another inanimate object adventure from Will, as a car takes revenge on its owner because the owner got frustrated that the car’s AC wasn’t working. Why was the car entitled to take revenge? Why did the car think that the best way to take revenge was by bumping another car? Shouldn’t the car have been nervous that the redneck in the truck would, say, take a crowbar to it? The actor’s performance was hammy and the use of "Ode to Joy" was needlessly obvious. Really, we’re at the point in this competition where everybody should be better than this. Only Penny correctly tells Will he could have done better.

My Quick Response: Five total duds with just a smattering of inspiration spread amongst them. I think Jason and Sam’s were the worst, though I’d be hard pressed to give a best.

Did you find a film you enjoyed this week? Did the right person go home? Who should go home next week?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg