Love is blind – which is why, sometimes, you need someone to step in and save you from walking into traffic.
That’s the idea behind Bad Cupid, an amiably offbeat comedy about a slacker named Dave. A loser who can’t believe he lost, he’s still obsessed with the girl who dumped him a year ago. The problem with carrying a torch that long, however, is that the smoke can keep you from seeing straight – and you run a risk of getting burned.
Enter Archie, an elderly and argumentative Welshman who is determined to set Dave on the path to true happiness.
Archie likes playing Cupid, obviously, but is he just playing? Is he merely a boozy brother to Bad Santa, or is he an immortal? The film is a little coy on that.
Unlike the Latin God, Archie isn’t a cherubic toddler with a pair of wings. He doesn’t have a bow and arrow either (although a crossbow does show up late in the plot). But he does seem to have an otherworldly knowledge of people’s personal lives. And a superior, sometimes infuriated what-fools-these-mortals-be attitude toward the lovesick characters he keeps trying to help.
Directed by first-time feature filmmakers Diane Cossa and Neil Howard, and shot in wintry Buffalo, the film has both a fresh appeal and a bit of retro charm. With a soundtrack full of indie pop, and scenes bridged with funky hand-drawn animation, it feels, stylistically, like a ‘90s throwback – one of those unironic rom-coms that used to fill old Sundance schedules.
Bad Cupid missed its chance to play the current fest circuit, thanks to Covid, but it can still provide a pleasant diversion to audiences clicking through their streaming choices.
Shane Nepveu, who plays the heartbroken Dave, has just the right combination of hangdog devotion and self-deprecating humor. And having the veteran John Rhys-Davies as Archie helps the film immeasurably. Whether physically removing hapless impediments to the true course of love, bellowing oracular pronouncements on the virtues of clam chowder, or simply dancing in the street in his red tennis shoes, he’s a charmer.
Small movies with slight ideas have to depend a lot on charm, too, as well as a light touch. Sometimes, admitted, both desert Bad Cupid.
Briana Marin, for example, who plays Dave’s snarky sidekick and sarcastic cousin, oversells her lines, trying too hard for a laugh; her directors should have told her less is almost always more, especially in comedy. (On the other hand, ambiguity isn’t always better; just a little backstory on the mysterious Archie would be welcome.)
But the cast is mostly fine, some of the jokes are good, the music and cartoons are fun and, at 81 minutes, the film certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. Does this Cupid’s arrow hit the bullseye? Hardly. But even if doesn’t make you fall in love with it, it comes close enough to make you fall in like.