THE WORLD DID NOT ASK for "sexy Napoleon Dynamite"—but with the formulaic indie romcom Splinterheads, sexy Napoleon Dynamite is what we get. Justin (Thomas Middleditch) is our hapless twentysomething hero—he lives with his mother, has a chubby Asian sidekick, and practices karate (shirtless) in his spare time. Enter! A beautiful, free-spirited girl who promises to change his life forever.
Galaxy (Rachael Taylor) is a "splinterhead," a made-up sounding term that refers to someone who works the crowd at carnival. The two meet after she hustles him out of some gas money, an act of petty larceny that only makes her more appealing, and they bond over Galaxy's interest in "geocaching," a made-up sounding term that refers to a GPS-based treasure hunting game. But Galaxy's got a boyfriend—naturally, he's a burly carny who doesn't appreciate Justin taking an interest in his girl. Pitfalls and pratfalls ensue.
Justin is almost appealing when he's got his mouth shut—but an apparent case of facial Tourettes manifests as an endless parade of weird grimaces that effectively neutralize his appeal. And Galaxy, for all that she's meant to be worldly and irresistible, evokes nothing more than a Reed College student who's decided to take a year off to get some "life experience."
Splinterheads marries the so-called comedic stylings of Dynamite with the slavering romanticism of 500 Days of Summer—and slaps a "Carpe Diem" bumper sticker on the back of the honeymoon wagon. It's indie-as-aesthetic, mimicking the look and sound of popular independent films, while neglecting far more crucial elements like humor, heart, and intelligence.
There is a possibility, of course, that Splinterheads is a sophisticated parody of indie film tropes. A remote possibility, but one that must be credited—the female love interest's name is Galaxy, for Chrissakes. Sophisticated send-up of the whimsical alterna-girl cliché, or store-brand knock-off of same? Smart money's on the latter.