The plot of Sarah Smick's blackly comic "Friended to Death" is thin and simple stuff, a premise that might feel right at home in a half-hour TV sitcom such as "The Big Bang Theory" -- minus the rat-a-tat punchlines and interesting characters.
The moment we meet L.A. parking enforcement officer Michael Harris ("Veronica Mars" regular Ryan Hansen), we know that he's 1) a pompously self-centered, toxic personality, and 2) a social media addict.
"Friended to Death"★ ½
Starring: Ryan Hansen, Zach McGowan, Sarah Smick, James Immekus, Richard Riehie
Directed by: Sarah Smick
Other: A Green Step Productions release. Rated R for language, sexual references. 94 minutes
He posts so hard and fast while on the job, you'd think he's being paid by the hashtag.
One day he posts a photo of a car with a funny license plate, against department policy, and gets bounced from his job. He'd seek support from friends and family, but, being a sprig of social poison ivy, he has no one. Even his supposed best friend (Zach McGowan) didn't invite him to a birthday party.
Desperate for validation, Harris hooks up with a fellow dismissed parking officer, the timidly nerdy Emile (James Immekus), just the guy Harris needs to help execute his outrageous idea to make people feel bad they weren't much nicer to him.
Harris will fake his death on social media and see how many people show up at his memorial service. He likens news of his demise to 9/11.
"Friended to Death," coproduced and cowritten by director/star Sarah Smick, sputters along on fumes of cleverness, leaving Hansen's daffy, full-throttle commitment to his self-deluded protagonist as the movie's single positive asset.
With his eyes constantly atwinkle right above a comical push broom mustache, Hansen arrests the camera lens, especially in tight close-ups riddled with zesty obsession.
Immekus blends into the woodwork. Smick goes way too cartoony as the mysterious blonde sneaking around, constantly keeping the clueless Harris under surveillance. (Incidentally, her name is "Rhune Muhleif," a phonetic joke that didn't need to be spelled out to us by Harris, but is anyway.)
A disappointing, anti-climactic back story explains everything, except how a movie all about the timely subject of social media addiction could come off seeming so irrelevant and trivial.
Note: "Friended to Death" will be available on Video on Demand May 9.