Neither terrible nor revelatory, Ramaa Mosley's The Brass Teapot is the kind of movie you might stumble across on cable and stick with, if only because, well, you've got nothing better to do.
Like W.W. Jacobs' The Monkey's Paw, The Brass Teapot is a slight tale with a dark twist, based on the notion that nothing is ever free. In this case, the story centers on a happily married but very broke young couple, Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano).
He works as an unsuccessful telemarketer; she's a recent college grad who keeps applying for jobs that are way out of her league. They owe rent, they drive a POS and they resent their high-school classmates like the snotty Payton (Alexis Bledel), who married rich. And yet -- key point -- they are happy with each other.
Then one day, after a minor fender-bender during a day of thrift-shopping, Alice walks into a store as if drawn there. She spots a brass teapot with a Star of David soldered to its side and, without thinking, steals it and runs off.
She quickly discovers that this particular vessel spouts money -- specifically, hundred-dollar bills. But it only does so when she hurts herself. If she gets a paper cut or bumps her head, she finds a new supply of Benjamins in the teapot.
She shares this knowledge with John and they begin inflicting punishment on each other, filling garbage bags with the bills they collect. But enough is never enough, right?
So there are a couple of problems, as you might suspect. For starters, there are a pair of Hasidic Jews who show up with guns, demanding the return of the teapot as part of their family heritage. The couple escapes from them -- only to discover that the teapot's appetite for pain is growing and that they need to suffer greater and greater pain for any gain. Eventually, they find that it will be satisfied if they hurt other people, before it starts responding to emotional pain that visit upon each other and upon people they know.
But while The Brass Teapot offers offbeat semi-comic roles to the protean Angarano, an underappreciated young actor, and the effervescent Temple, the film quickly spins off into both the far-fetched and the overly serious in its mythology. Mosley's writing runs out of ideas, jokes and steam about 45 minutes into it.
Meanwhile, it wastes the talents of such talented performers as SNL's Bobby Moynihan, Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat and actor Ben Rappaport. It can't maintain its jokey tone; indeed, it loses track of just what that tone should be.
But not horribly so. Put it this way: If you wandered across this movie on a channel without commercials, you'd probably stick with it. If, on the other hand, you happened upon The Brass Teapot and it broke for a commercial, you'd probably change the channel.
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