Two Bits & Pepper

Director: Corey Michael Eubanks  
Joe Piscopo, Dennis Weaver, Lauren Eckstrom

If you have been reading this site for some time, you probably by now have not only some idea of my way of thinking, but also when it comes to my hopes and dreams. Naturally, you have probably correctly guessed that my dream would be to be a professional movie critic, to be paid to indulge in what I consider to be my top hobby. But knowing how the real world works, I realize that many people never get to reach their top ambition. So in preparation for that, I have prepared for a back-up dream occupation that I would also enjoy doing. And that second place occupation would be stand-up comedian. I have already started preparing a stand-up routine, and here's a sample of what I would say on stage: "So what is the deal when it comes to dryer sheets? You know, those sheets made by Bounce and other laundry providers that you put in your dryer with your washed clothes. I know what the purpose of putting them in your dryer is - it's to make your clothes static-free and soft. I have no problem with the static-free claim. But softening your clothes? Think about it for a minute. When you add one of those sheets to the dryer, and you later take out your clothes once they are dried, yes, your clothes feel soft to the touch. But what about later, when you put on your clothes? Your clothes may be soft on the outside, but inside, next to your skin, you won't feel softness. Your dryer sheet was only able to brush against the outside of your clothes. So maybe now you are thinking that you should put your clothes in the dryer inside out. Think about that. Maybe your clothes will feel soft against your skin, but when you brush your hands against these clothes you are wearing, you won't feel softness."

As you can see from that particular routine, I have the wit and timing of the best stand up comics. I maintain my comic skills by various methods. When I go out at night, I am always sure to keep a flashlight in my pocket, so if I should pass a brick wall I can shine a spotlight of sorts on me while performing one of my routines to surprised passer-bys. Also, I mine every possible source I come across in my daily life for new material. Recently, I came across a movie that gave me several ideas for topics to talk about during any stand-up routines I might do during the future. I'll give you a taste right now: "So what is the deal when it comes to women? They are so... so unmasculine. I invited this woman to my apartment to watch a Peter Jackson movie, since she loved his Lord Of The Rings movies . The Peter Jackson movie I played for her was Dead Alive, and she walked out before even the first half hour was done. Maybe I should have shown something light instead, like a Three Stooges movie." Here's another routine I am working on: "So what is the deal when it comes to kids? They are so... so childish and immature. Have you noticed that they can't hold their liquor very well? Or that they often have the worst taste when it comes to movies and television shows?" As you might have guessed, the movie that I saw that inspired those routines is the movie I am reviewing here, Two Bits & Pepper. Not only is it a movie that involves kids - kids who happen to be female - but it's one of those girl movies that revolves around horses. And the horses are treated with that attitude you find with your typical young girl, oooh love 'em love 'em!

In short, if you have been reading this site for a long time, you probably know that a movie like Two Bits & Pepper shouldn't have attracted me to watch and review it. But while the movie didn't promise anything like violence and hard attitudes, it had a few attributes that intrigued me Two Bits & Pepperenough to watch it. The first being that it was a movie made by one of my favorite movie production companies, PM Entertainment. The next thing that attracted me to it was that it was written and directed by Corey Michael Eubanks, who wrote and starred in the pretty good PM Entertainment movie Forced To Kill. Since his contributions to that movie were pretty good, I was curious to see if he could help make a movie of a much different genre, especially with more creative control. The movie starts off with the introduction of two young girls living in the countryside, Tyler (Eckstrom, Star Kid) and Katie (Rachel Crane, Sour Grapes). Their favorite activity is to ride in the countryside on their horses, which are named "Two Bits" and "Pepper". One day, Tyler decides to break the rules her parents have imposed on her, and ride with Katie into town. Tyler's mother finds out, there is a big argument between the two, and Tyler is so upset that she decides to run away from home, heading to Katie's house that night. What both girls don't know is that two criminal brothers (both played by Joe Piscopo of Saturday Night Live) have entered the area and are looking for a child to kidnap in order to get a big ransom. Having spotted Katie earlier, the kidnappers force their way in Katie's home and kidnap the two girls. Things look grim, but what nobody knows is that Two Bits and Pepper have broken out of their stable and are looking for the girls despite the danger they face.

You may think that you have a pretty good idea of what Two Bits & Pepper is like from that above description. However, there is one key piece of information I have left out that when added, changes the movie significantly from what you are probably picturing in your head. And that information is that Two Bits and Pepper talk. Well, they don't move their lips, but we hear their voices and conversations with each other. (And the dubbed voice for Pepper sure sounds like a cross between Mr. Ed and how Don Ameche voiced that dog in the popular movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey two years earlier.) Anyway, from what we hear from these two horses talking, they sometimes seem to be pretty intelligent, figuring out how to open doors, for example. Yet the movie never explains why, during the part of the movie when the horses come across a band of rustlers on horseback, Two Bits and Pepper don't tell the rustlers' horses about the situation and please not pursue them. (The movie also never explains why these modern day rustlers are not driving vehicles that can carry the horses and cows they rustle.) Needless to say, the movie also never explains why Two Bits and Pepper don't show their intelligence to their mistresses, or even why they allow themselves to be slaves to humans despite being free-thinking beings. There's only one part of the movie when the screenplay explores the minds of these horses, and that is during a dream sequence when Two Bits dreams about the time a drunk driver swerved off the road and hit his mother while he was still young. Yeah, I am sure kids won't mind a sequence like that. What makes this traumatic scene even worse is that it doesn't seem to have any purpose, except maybe to freak out younger children who are watching and give the movie some "edge".

There's more that's strange when it comes to the characters of the two horses. Although the title of the movie showcases the names of these two animals, they are not upfront and center in the movie itself. In fact, their appearances are so sporadic that they come dangerously close to being an afterthought. Though if the horses in real life that played these characters had even half of the intelligence of their characters, they would probably be thankful they didn't get more screen time judging by how badly the movie handles the rest of the (human) characters and the actors who play them. While the actresses who play the two little girls aren't the worst child actors I've seen in a movie, they still perform in an amateurish manner. Saddled with dialogue from Eubanks' script that doesn't sound like how little girls talk, and apparently given no direction from Eubanks the director, they seem kind of lost and unsure of what exactly to do. Joe Piscopo, as I mentioned earlier in the review, plays both of the kidnappers, and gives him the opportunity to deliver two bad performances. With Eubanks apparently unwilling to reign in him, Piscopo outrageously overacts, perhaps thinking that being unsubtle is funny. Instead, it is extremely embarrassing to see him make a fool out of himself. Dennis Weaver (Duel At Diablo) makes three or four short appearances as the town sheriff who takes charge of the kidnapping case, and while he gives the best performance in the movie, he's still pretty lacklustre. A couple of times he acts like he's just woken up from a nap and he's unsure of what he should be saying and how he should say it.

The blame for the failure of Two Bits & Pepper lies almost completely with Corey Michael Eubanks. About the only fault with the movie that he probably didn't have anything to do with are the bad and obvious special effects when both of the kidnappers' faces appear in the same shot. Possibly Eubanks is also not to blame for the movie's washed-out photography that makes the scenic countryside look dull. But otherwise, Eubanks here seems hopeless with the two key roles he worked on behind the camera. When it comes to writing, he seems to feel that someone simply farting is hilarious, and pulls out old and withered gags like someone being kicked in the crotch that even kids will be very familiar with. And don't get me started with his direction. I will admit that his direction is sometimes good for a laugh, like when several dozen kids are leaving school and all of them are frantically running out of and away from the building (must be really strict teachers in there.) But more often than not I found his direction bad at best, downright tasteless at worst. The two kidnappers come across as unbelievably dirty and scummy, so a couple of times Eubanks tries to get some laughs by having these disgusting cretins try to entice a kid to get into their car comes across even more offensive than with what's written in the script alone. And there are several intense moments that will freak out younger members of the audience, like when the two girls are trapped in a burning building. Watching moments like those, and subsequently doing research online, I was stunned when I discovered that The Dove Foundation gave Two Bits & Pepper their seal of approval (though they recommended it for people aged 12 and up.) Personally, I think that since older viewers will be offended by the movie's crudeness and offensive touches, and younger viewers will be freaked out by the movie's bleak and harsh touches, there is no audience for this movie at all.

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See also: The Golden Seal, Joy Ride To Nowhere, Secret Agent Club