Fantastic Fest 2018: The FP2 Beat Beats the Franchise to Death

After seven long years of waiting, Jason Trost is finally unleashing the next entry in the FP saga, FP 2: Beats of Rage, at Fantastic Fest, the festival that started it all for the young director. The crowdfunded project, which started off as a film, then transitioned to a possible TV series, then back to a film, has Trost bringing back most of the original gang from the 248 to continue the saga of Jtro as he is tasked once again with saving the FP. I was a big fan of the first film, with its mix of subversive low brow humor and over the top characters that was way smarter and more charming than it had any right to be.

FP2 begins with Frazer Park now bone dry, after a Dune-esque opening, explaining that he who controls the Cuatro (the booze) controls Frazier Park. The film then introduces the big bad, the soul stealing (in more ways than one) Beat Beater AK-47 (Mike O’Gorman), who currently rules the wastelands. Jtro is now living a bit more of a low-key existence since saving the FP in the first film, when he is invited to a Beat Beat tournament called “Beats of Rage,” the prize being a lifetime supply of Cuatro. The film feels structurally very similar to the first. After suffering a defeat at the hands of AK-47, Jtro must unlock his potential via training montage to rise up and stop AK-47 from taking destroying the FP. This time, however, Jtro has more than a few run-ins with his family who are either out to help him or destroy him this time around.

With most comedy sequels, the rule is to usually go bigger, funnier, more audacious. Given the independent nature of the film and the fact that it was crowdfunded, you’d figure it would be easy for Trost to simply amp up the humor and add even more raunchy gross outs. But the film’s biggest surprise is its attempt to update the world of the FP with sense of political correctness, which really takes the teeth out of the world. For sure, some of the language and situations of the first film were offensive and a bit misogynistic, but it’s hard to take a film where life and death struggles are settled by a DDR clone seriously. Also, nothing the film did that was offensive ever felt mean spirited or came from a hateful place; it was all just dumb fun.

This made me a look back a bit to why the first film worked. The first film was hilarious and strangely subversive in a way that’s impossible to do now, in that it turned a mirror on this culture of rural white kids who attempt to appropriate African American culture for their own while also being completely disconnected from it. The best example is the flagrant use of the “n-word,” which you can see done on almost any social media today by young white kids who are consuming a culture, but don’t completely understand the word’s weight or history. This device was used to play up the ignorance of the characters in the FP. It wasn’t an easy line to tread, but Trost kind of made it work seven years ago, and while the words the characters used were not harmless by any stretch of the imagination, the context didn’t make you wince every time it was uttered.

In the FP2, Trost, given the current climate, saw fit to avoid a backlash and drop that piece altogether, but by doing so compromised an artistic decision he made in the first film that he couldn’t easily walk back. The FP2 felt joyless and just didn’t work for me. The characters both old and new lack the polish and depth of the original, and the film also inadvertently lost one of my favorite unintentional gags. The films are supposed to take place in a dystopian future, but everything in the first film appeared to be taking place in a completely normal rural community, just with these really odd Mad Max-esque characters roaming around. This time we have countless CGI drone shots to keep reminding us where we are; it works for the budget, but lacks that playfulness. It’s almost like Trost didn’t understand himself what fans loved about the first film when he went back to the drawing board for a sequel. The other side of this is maybe too much time has passed and the world has changed enough that you can’t make a sequel to a film like the FP.

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