Matt Johnson, the director, co-writer, and star of Operation Avalanche, must have loved the 1977 movie Capricorn One. By shifting the perspective and tone, his film tells the same story as that O.J. Simpson vehicle. Capricorn was a paranoid thriller about NASA faking a mission to Mars. In Avalanche, the thrill is gone. This cinematic stepchild takes the shape of a “documentary” about NASA faking a moon landing in 1969, skipping the cheery “mockumentary” moniker. But the humor is played out in a series of inside jokes that never land for the audience. Johnson pays homage to his acting heroes, John Krasinski (The Office) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), by attempting their masterful reaction shots to absurd situations and the other sitcom characters. And Johnson’s mugging for the camera is only that — or, worse, a mirror made of celluloid that he keeps looking into. He appears in 99 percent of the frames, a director endlessly gazing back at himself and his reflection in the monitors. If the intention was to go all meta on us — it’s the character named Matt Johnson who enjoys the attention, not the actor himself — that intention fails. The lack of narrative momentum here owes something to the mumblecore films of a decade ago, and Operation Avalanche provides all the evidence necessary to finally bury that genre once and for all.
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