Film Review: Pistol Shrimps

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Pistol Shrimps is streaming now on SeeSo.com & the SeeSo app

The Pistol Shrimps: Maria Blasucci, Amanda Lund, Aubrey Plaza, Melissa Stetten, Jesse Thomas, Molly Hawkey, Stephanie Allyne, Angela Trimbur, Paisley Grey, Laura Jack, Kelly Vallon, Tali Levi-Crouch, Ingrid Walla, Mark Smith, Chris Vanger

Coaches: Mark “Bizzy” Smith & Chris Vanger

Commentators: Matt Gourley, Mark McConville, Jensen Karp

Director: Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale, I am Chris Farley)

The first thing that must be said about Pistol Shrimps is that these women are great inspirations for young girls. Not only are they determined athletes with great attitudes and sportswoman-like conduct, but they started a women’s recreational basketball league that has since grown to include over twenty-five teams and has been featured on SportsCenter. In true sports movie fashion, the Pistol Shrimps rose from being terrible the first couple seasons to the best team in the league chasing an undefeated season and the championship trophy. The documentary follows this winning season, but it isn’t so much about the sport as it is about the women who make up the team.

Founded by Maria Blasucci (Ghost Girls, Drunk History), the Pistol Shrimps team features comedians, actresses, musicians, lawyers, models, and moms. Most of the women on the team had never played basketball competitively — some not even at all. The documentary features a peak into the lives of nearly every player on the team. We get to see the writing process of partners Blasucci and Amanda Lund (Ghost Girls, Goosebumps), musical performances by team MVP Jesse Thomas (Burn the Boats album), the exploits of the “oldest contestant in Bachelor history” Molly Hawkey (“The Bachelor,” Higher Ground), Laura “Lights Out” Jack raising her adorable daughter and honorary member Ramona, halftime dancing led by actress Angela Trimbur (The Final Girls), the modeling careers of Melissa Stetten (Trust Me, Patti Lapel pins) and Paisley Grey, how lawyer Kelly Vallon manages her professional and recreational lives, interviews with Stephanie Allynne (In a World…) and Tali Levi-Crouch, the origin of Ingrid “Han Mah Boogie” Walla’s nickname, and the season ending injury of Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza.

It isn’t all about the Pistol Shrimps roster though. The film also features podcast commentators Matt Gourley and Mark McConville of SuperEgo, as well as Jensen Karp (Kanye West Owes Me $300 memoir) with the halftime sock report. The documentary doesn’t feature these three men for too much time, but Pistol Shrimps Radio is certainly one of the funniest, most entertaining podcasts around. There’s also Mark “Bizzy” Smith and Chris Vanger who volunteer their time to coach and train the team. Yes, train, as these funny women actually take the game quite seriously; they hold weekly practices and even have a few plays they routinely run. Aside from the main roster and the supporting cast, Pistol Shrimps also has interviews with some of the players from other teams, the Lopez twins being particularly funny standouts.

Director Brent Hodge got some good interviews out of everyone, and it was all edited together pretty well. The movie has solid pacing as well; it never seems to drag, and It is consistently entertaining. The framing device showing the season’s games connects everything together and keeps the plot moving, but the movie could use more footage from the actual games. Pistol Shrimps is a bit divided in this way. The movie seems to want to be comedy first and sports story second, with the biggest focus being on the players’ lives off the court. Because of this, both aspects feel a bit lacking.

Overall, the movie isn’t as hilarious as one might expect, and the underdog sports story angle could be more compelling. Neither are a fault of the people appearing on screen, though. Sure, Hawkey, Lund, Blasucci, and the commentating team of Gourley & McConville are quite funny, but the movie as a whole doesn’t feel much like a laugh-out-loud comedy (perhaps it isn’t intended to be). Pistol Shrimps seems to be lacking that “X factor” — a surprising moment in act three or a really interesting, shocking storyline throughout — that most documentaries have. It doesn’t elevate to truly great documentary status, but it is still an entertaining, fun, and uplifting movie that most comedy fans will enjoy.

If you are a comedy fan who has heard of the Shrimps and you are looking for something really funny that follows the team then you should check out Pistol Shrimps Radio. The podcast is a lot funnier than the movie, but, conversely, it doesn’t focus on the players much. And Hoop Dreams is a great movie if you’re looking for a compelling sports documentary. The Pistol Shrimps movie, on the other hand, is a documentary that provides an occasionally humorous glimpse into the off-screen lives of a group of strong, funny women and the one of a kind basketball league they started.

Behave Andromeda Romano-Lax

Joe Portes is a writer of Fiction and Essays, as well as a Creative Writing instructor in Upstate New York. He has edited literary journals and online magazines where his stories, interviews, and reviews have also appeared. His work has been in or is forthcoming in the Indianola Review, Pitkin Review, and Free George Magazine among others. Aside from writing for the Pop Culture Beast, he maintains a blog at JoePortes.com where you can read about everything from teaching college freshmen, to his love of podcasts, to playing video games.
Joe PortesFilm Review: Pistol Shrimps