Two guys in bucket helmets and red jumpsuits playing the banjo and the guitar, doesn’t really sound like a winning combination right? Think again. The History of Future Folk, directed by John Mitchell and Jeremy Walker, is a fun, sweet, music filled journey that will surprise and entertain you; and by the end, have you screaming, "Hondo!" (You’ll understand later.)
The film introduces us to a fantastic story about a boy and a promise. On the distant planet Hondo, Trius and his mother live happily. But soon, scientists discover that an asteroid is on a collision course with their planet. As a child, Trius vows to his mother that he will one day destroy the asteroid and save Hondo. The boy eventually becomes the greatest general the Hondonian army has ever seen, and is sent out into space to discover another hospitable planet. He eventually crash lands on Earth, but is unable to return to his planet because of the damage to his ship.
General Trius (Nils d'Aulaire) is tasked with wiping out all human life on Earth in preparation for the Hondonian population, but instead falls in love with music, a creation unbeknownst to his people. Trius takes up the name Bill and starts a one-man bluegrass band, eventually meeting a human woman and starting a family, all while secretly trying to figure out how to destroy the asteroid from Earth. His quaint, peaceful, human life is shattered however when Kevin (Jay Klaitz), a buffoonish Hondonian assassin, is sent to Earth to finish Bill's mission. Luckily, Kevin also finds a love of music, and the two soon form a wacky musical act called "Future Folk."
The story is obviously silly, but the script, written by John Mitchell, is a perfect fit. The film is loosely based on the band's made up (or is it) origin story. Looking at a synopsis, you might imagine it's a dumb comedy. Well it is, but it also presents the audience with a story about family, love, and alien assassins. What's not to love about that?
The duo featured, and starring, in The History of Future Folk is an actual group (also called Future Folk), who had been performing for some time before the film. Similar to Tenacious D or Flight of the Concords, the film is more prone to comical fantasy than reality. But Future Folk is deeper and more character driven, forcing the audience to care about Bill, Kevin, and everyone else strewn throughout the movie. This wouldn't be possible, however, without the superb acting put forth by the cast. Despite being his first acting role, d’Aulaire’s performance does not betray him in the least. Maybe it’s because the film he stars in is a wacky sci-fi comedy. Regardless, it’ll be exciting to see if he continues an acting career in the future.
Being a music-centric experience however, the best part of the movie is of course, the music. Somewhat akin to Mumford and Sons, Future Folk has a twangy banjo-guitar combination, combined with kitschy sci-fi themed lyrics in the light-hearted vein of Tenacious D. There are a number of silly and incredibly catchy numbers – "Space Worms," a Spanish language space love song, and a handful of others – that do little to further the story; but also present are tracks such as "Over the Moon," that really help you understand and care about the characters. All-in-all, it's that balance between the silly and the serious that makes the movie fun. If you’re a fan of bluegrass music, you’ll more than likely enjoy the music. If not, you'll still enjoy the music. The memorable tunes and lyrics make it accessible to anyone and everyone, and will have you humming to yourself long after you've left the theater.
Although no widespread release or distribution announcements have been made yet, I sincerely hope Future Folk somehow spreads to a wider audience. The movie has a lot of heart and the combination of story and music will have you giggling in your seat. If you get a chance and you’re in the LA area, the film will be screening once again on June 17th at 7pm. It’s definitely worth checking out.