A movie’s runtime may be indicative of many things. Sometimes a story may be difficult to fit into ninety minutes, or two hours; sometimes a director may die in the chair for want of an editor. The opposite is also true; sometimes a movie may struggle to fill ninety minutes, having exhausted its narrative and presentation midway through. The short movie has its own appeal, entertainment with lesser commitment. But is that time well-used if the movie is poor, or has the viewer merely limited their losses?
Slice (2018) came to me by way of my public library’s free Kanopy streaming service. The better-known A24 films are included in the service, but an 83 minute movie holds its appeal on a Thursday night where the combination of damp weather and a flu shot have limited the viewer’s ambitions.
History will show that Slice was filmed in 2016, but its production will indicate that as well. The cast includes many recognizable people who likely graced the pages of Entertainment Weekly in that year: Joe Keery, Hannibal Burress, Paul Scheer, among others. Our ostensible leads are Zazie Beetz, leading the film with all the power her scowl and eyeliner can muster, and Chance Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper.
The story itself is a light black supernatural horror comedy, somehow. In a town where the dead walk benignly among the living but housed in their own neighborhoods, a series of murdered pizza delivery persons have the town on edge. Local police are baffled; a pastel-clad reporter searches for answers. The mayor comes with a series of apologies. Beneath it all, a sinister history lurks, as a town waits for its pizzas.
The overall production is a well-arranged mall storefront with an underwhelming interior. Its vibrant aesthetic and charismatic cast both carry some weight, but the stakes aren’t high enough for emotional investment, and the comedy more goofy than anything. This is a hangout movie, regardless of its genre veneer, and its plot seems determined by the runtime. Somehow, I made it this far into the review without mentioning Stranger Things, without which this movie would have never been made.
There are things to like here. The cast has some good performances. Rae Gray is charming as a troubled reporter, and count me as enjoying Paul Scheer for what he does. Chris Parnell is perfectly cast as the mayor; Beetz does well enough as the hip lead. I’m less sure about Bennett here, who gets as much presentation as anyone, but as the movie’s emotional core, can’t deliver a line with any conviction.
Overall, Slice is mostly a novelty, colorful and inoffensive but hard to recommend. I can’t be the first person to compare the production to the delivery pizzas so central to its story: the calories here are mostly empty, qualifying the movie as visually appealling filler.