“Feed the Fish” is a quiet, funny movie that’s a nice take on the old fish-out-of-water formula.
The screenplay recognizes the formula — that’s what the title is all about, after all — and makes it enjoyable with quirky characters and the by turns gorgeous and stark backdrop of Door County, Wis., in winter.
Joe Peterson (Ross Partridge) is an author. Actually, he was an author. The writer of a violent children’s book (because, the way Joe tells it, kids love violence) that was a best-seller, he is struggling to put together a concept for another book.
His fiancée stays after him to keep writing. After all, bills continue to pile up. Meanwhile, J.P. (Michael Chernus), his fiancée’s brother and Joe’s pal, has other aspirations: He wants to indulge in the Polar Bear Plunge in northern Wisconsin, as J.P.’s father and grandfather did before him.
This will require the two to travel from Venice, Calif., to Wisconsin, the likes of which Joe has never seen. He can’t believe how isolated the community is and, of course, he’s not used to the cold. Joe thinks that maybe the change of scenery will get his creative juices flowing, though.
We watch as the determined J.P. begins to run around outdoors, even diving into the snow, to become accustomed to the chilly weather before he actually takes the Polar Bear plunge. On one of his excursions, he draws the none-too-friendly interest of a local badger, and a painful accident ensues that lands J.P. in the small community hospital while he recovers.
Joe, now on his own, makes the acquaintance of local waitress and hockey player Sif Andersen (Katie Aselton), who finds him interesting. But it turns out that Sif is the daughter of Sheriff Andersen (Tony Shalhoub) and the granddaughter of Joe’s neighbor, Axel (Barry Corbin).
The sheriff has serious misgivings about Sif’s budding relationship with Joe. “He’s not from around here. You don’t know him,” the sheriff tells his daughter, who counters with “He’s a good tipper.”
Bit by bit, the lonely Joe begins to assimilate himself into the community as he learns to shoot, to fish and that the residents around him are more accepting than he first thought.
This gentle comedy will sneak up on you with its engaging performances, endearing small-town relationships and droll sense of humor. I was particularly charmed by the character of Axel, whose common-sense approach to winter, and to life, is touching and realistic.
“Feed the Fish” is a perfectly warm winter outing.