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The Independent Critic

Michael Arell, Jake Cote, Greg Sorokin
Michael Arell
82 Mins.

 Is "Slim" the Biggest Zero-Budget Film Ever? 

There are times when I'm not particularly fond of having an official star rating system, a 0-4 star way of evaluating films that can't and doesn't always tell the entire story. 

Slim is an example of a film where I'd love to just drop the actual rating, in this case a possibly generous 1-star rating, and talk about the actual experience of watching a film that is self-billed as the "biggest zero-budget film of all-time." 

For the record, it's not. 

Slim is a fun film, at least in goofy sort of guilty pleasure kind of way. It's the kind of film that you watch and think to yourself "Oh my, this is godawful." Then, when it's over you start it all over and watch it again. 

Slim is the story of Slim (Michael Arell, also the film's writer/director), an overweight archaeologist sent on a mission to find an ancient dustpan. It's a gold dustpan alleged to have been used by Moses thousands of years ago to dust up the pieces of the ten commandments that he accidentally dropped.

Okay, right there. Did you laugh? 

If you laughed, you may very well be the target audience for Michael Arell's ultra-low budget, family friendly Slim.

If, on the other hand, you found yoursel cringing. Stay away. Stay very far away from Slim, because it truly doesn't get much better. 

It's almost needless to say, but I'll say it. Slim goes off on his adventures and encounters a host of opposing forces from Nazis to cheerleaders, actually cheerleader nuns, to, well, you get the point.

The simple truth is that Slim isn't a very good film. It has apparently won a Gold Film Award in the Narrative Film Competition of the California Film Awards, a fact that should, quite honestly, make you immediately dismiss the California Film Awards. 

Now then, I realize I sound pretty harsh up to now. The truth is that I rather admire Arell's confidence and, in fact, he's done a few things in promoting his film in a way vastly superior to many of his more experienced peers. For example, it's refreshing to have a filmmaker having obviously read all the submission guidelines and taking care to submit everything requested. It's refreshing to have a filmmaker who has created an IMDB page, created a website, created a social media campaign and made sure to provide a streaming link to their film. 


Arell operates under the production banner of his own Sleepy Dog Films, a banner he created for his own film and music projects in 1996. While his website states that he's created several short and feature films, Slim appears to be the first one getting a major push and it's his first actual IMDB credit. 

If an Indiana Jones film had been made for $20, there's a pretty good chance it'd look something like Slim, an occasionally funny but more frequently cringeworthy effort. The sound design for Slim is, perhaps, the film's weakest link with poorly dubbed vocals made worse by the fact that you're frequently straining to hear a single word that they're saying. The film's original music, which is available on CDBaby, is muffled yet does, in fact, occasionally companion the film quite nicely.

The film's ensemble cast, seemingly comprised mostly of friends and family, appears to be having a good time with Slim, though there are too many times that "good times" comes at the expense of quality filmmaking as what's going on here appears to be less about acting and more about friends trying to out-improvise each other into foolishness that might make for good outtakes but certainly not quality filmmaking.

The simple truth is that I'm not quite ready to completely dismiss Slim, though to be fair I've also defended the films of Uwe Boll. While Slim isn't a film I could possibly recommend with any sense of integrity, there's something within the spirit of the film that indicates a glimmer of hope for Arell as a filmmaker. While it's difficult to tell from the finished product whether or not Arell truly aspires to a life in the film industry, you simply don't put this much effort into both production and promo without some sort of commitment.

Here's hoping that commitment leads to better results with Arell's next effort. Slim? That pretty much sums up the chances anyone's actually going to see the film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic