On paper, Kyle P. Smith’s “Turkey Bowl” sounds like the kind of film that the Duplass brothers might have made – a real-time comedy about a group of friends gathering to play their annual game of touch football. It all takes place at a local park in the middle of July (for no apparent reason other than to make a joke about it not being Thanksgiving), with a Butterball turkey as the prize. Despite its promising setup, however, the film never manages to be as funny as it probably could have been in the hands of a more talented, improv-savvy cast. And by choosing to focus more on the game rather than the strained relationships between the longtime friends, Smith makes it difficult for the audience to become invested in the story.
It doesn’t help that none of the characters are very likeable, particularly Sergio Villarreal as a hot-headed stranger invited to join the game, who acts like such a dick to his gracious hosts that it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have kicked him out in real life. Smith certainly raises a few interesting questions about the vitality of friendship and the primal competitive nature of men, but a lot of the conflict that is born out of that falls flat due to the lack of any background information. We never really know why everyone is acting so uptight, and just when it looks like they’re about to start strangling one another, they suddenly begin high-fiving and joking around again. It doesn’t feel very authentic, and it’s surprising that Smith wouldn’t want to further explore the relationships between his characters considering the movie is only a meager 62 minutes long. It’s the Thanksgiving equivalent of serving a turkey without any stuffing or gravy, especially when your guests were expecting a heaping plateful of both.