A scene from "Sassy Pants." (Handout )
Writer-director Coley Sohn's "Sassy Pants" is a watchable but tonally uneven semi-satire of low-rent suburbia, mall culture and the road less traveled. Although it attempts a kind of outré pose, the film ultimately proves a too-gentle juggling act that never quite soars.
As Bethany, a home-schooled high school graduate — and one student-class valedictorian! — taking baby steps into the real world, Ashley Rickards (sensational last year as an autistic teen in the underseen indie "Fly Away") paints a sympathetic portrait of the sane, suppressed kid surrounded by a sea of eccentrics.
Whether it's her divorced, control freak mother ("Breaking Bad's" Anna Gunn), flinty grandma (Jenny O'Hara), gay-alcoholic-car salesman father (Diedrich Bader), dad's flamboyant boy-toy (Haley Joel Osment, going for it), her alarmingly self-absorbed new boss (Shanna Collins) or a closeted dress store manager (Drew Droege), the quietly determined Bethany ends up the adult in the room, pretty much by default.
Unfortunately, that also causes budding fashion designer Bethany — and thereby Rickards — to get a bit upstaged by these higher-key characters, even as they often tilt toward caricature. Still, only Bethany, her broody younger brother, Shayne (Martin Spanjers), and earnest, Marines-bound neighbor and love interest, Hector (Rene Rosado), feel truly real.
Well-meaning and, in the end, sweetly redemptive, "Sassy Pants" would have worn better with more depth, energy and, yes, sass.
"Sassy Pants." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.