Film Review: State of Bacon

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Released: May 15, 2014; Comedy; Written & Directed by: Jason Cook; With: J.C. Collier, Caroline Fink, The Iowa Bacon Board, Chuck Grassley, Terry Branstad, Kim Pfannebecker

State of Bacon, a reimagining of the 2013 Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, is an idiosyncratic whirlwind of bacon-flavored fun. Most of its chief characters appear as themselves in a mockumentary delivery that really suits the story.

Firstly, let’s get the basics out of the way. A) The Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival is a real thing. In 2013, it sold out in 3 minutes and some odd seconds, and it continues to be one of the highlights of the winter season in Des Moines. B) There is such a thing as a Bacon Queen. She is crowned by the Iowa Bacon Board (also real) at the Festival each year. While I wasn’t there, it appears Kim Pfannebecker won her crown by wearing a skirt made of raw bacon and rapping her own bacon-centric lyrics to Run DMC’s It’s Tricky. It’s all there in the movie. And it’s boss. C) In 2013, 11,000 pounds of bacon were served at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, and 9,500 ticket holders attended. The idea behind SOB is that several groups of eccentric, wily, fascinating folks each spend the film preparing for the BRBF in their own bizarro ways and, eventually, cross paths in front of those ticket-holders while the ends of their tales unfold for the viewer. It’s chaotic as all get-out, and it’s supremely amusing.

Brooks Reynolds, the Chairman and President of Bacon for the Iowa Bacon Board narrates the film to a group of attractive, young women in a bar. He’s got his own brand of charm and I suspect (although I’m certainly not sure) the times when he’s the most charming are those when he’s got very few scripted requirements. The rest of the Bacon Board didn’t become the governing entity behind a bacon festival for nothing. They all also have their own charming moments. I’m partial to Seth Hall, but I’m sure you’ll identify your favorite after seeing the movie. Their mission might be suited by making trading cards with their photos and stats on them – just a thought…

The film intertwines the tale of the Bacon Board’s plan for the 2013 Festival with the intentions of a group of Icelandic gentlemen, who insist upon attending so that they might prove their bacon’s superiority. Additionally (and the real gem of a storyline here), Logan and Grace, two grade-schoolers with a hidden agenda (they have to get into the BRBF, just to prove they can; the age requirement is a whopping 21 years), create their own investigative food-and-restaurant-based news program to obtain press passes. Logan also really wants Grace to go out with him and he may have promised her entry to the Festival and a shot at television exposure in exchange for a date. They are positively adorable and full of charisma and camera-comfort.

Technically, the movie runs like a doc. It’s a combination of what I assume is actual footage from the 2013 bacon fest and the “mock” footage Cook shot (namely the Icelandic folks and the children, as well as an obnoxious food critic, and two dudes who passed out in a tent “camping out” for early entry to the Festival). It’s not necessarily supposed to be “clean,” but the last eight minutes of the film are edited really cleverly, with each scene bleeding into the next via some great audio manipulation. It’s cut quickly and cleanly and watching it pan out is worth the cost of admission in-and-of-itself. Fortunately, as I’ve mentioned, the movie includes several other fantastic elements, so the ticket price is a steal. Plus, from what I’ve heard, it includes some complimentary bacon.

It would be thoughtless of me if I didn’t also mention that, while the PETA folks do show up at the BRBF (and I’m not sure if they’re genuine or not, as is the burden borne by the mockumentary film), their presence is handled with cool even-handedness and they eventually enjoy a Coors Lights, the beer of all bacon-eating champions.

– Leah Gehlsen

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