Stefie (Étienne Galloy) seems to be used to amusing himself in the small town where he lives. When a chance encounter with Jean-Se (Simon Pigeon) and Martin (Alexandre Lavigne) brings him into the world of friendship and first crushes, as the boys recruit Stefie to record their pranks on his phone.
Screening In Competition at International Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, Prank is the first feature length film from Canadian director, whose short films have screened at festivals around the world. A coming of age story in a way, Prank is a film that is sweet and warm, but struggles to come out from under the shadow of previous offerings like Dope and Spring Breakers.
Étienne Galloy leads the cast as Stefie, although this is a character we can relate to – didn’t we all feel like outcasts in our teenage years? – and he makes the character the heart and soul of the film, and one that is fun to watch as he comes out of his shell. The rest of the cast features Simon Pigeon and Alexandre Lavigne as the two older boys who befriend Stefie, and have no more loyalty than any other bored teenager. Constance Massicotte plays Martin’s girlfriend Lea, who strikes up a warm friendship with the young newcomer, and makes the character charming and sweet, but with wavering loyalties.
Writers Alexandre Auger, Vincent Biron, Eric K. Boulianne and Marc-Antoine Rioux have captured the feel of being bored in a small town, and the pranks that the kids come up with to entertain themselves are often amusing, if a little on the silly side. The trouble with the film arises with the fact that there seems to be no aim to the pranks – no end game, as well as dialogue between the characters, which often feels too mature for teenagers – even if it is accurate and well observed. We learn little about the kids other than what is on the surface, with no family interaction happening at any stage of the film; this could have added a layer of depth to the characters and it is sorely missed throughout Prank.
As director, Vincent Biron makes the film bright and colourful, but while there is a true sense of energy at times, the rest of the film struggles to keep the momentum going. It is clear that this is meant to convey the boredom that the kids are struggling with, but it means that the film feels like it is dragging its heels at times. There are nice touches here and there; like experiencing a fairground while on mushrooms, and Martin’s obsession with cult movies like First Blood, but this does not compensate for thinly drawn characters.
In all, Prank is sweet and warm, and is a lot of fun at times, but it would have benefitted from rounding out the characters a little more, and giving the audience some back story and a steadier pace.