I love the whole story and concept behind the original Orson Welles radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds in 1938. Whether it’s myth or otherwise that it caused widespread panic, I just love that they tried. I love that it’s something, with our connected world, that would be next to impossible to do now.
Brave New Jersey takes up back to 1938 on the very evening that Welles, and his fellow performers, make the broadcast.
We’re in Lullaby, New Jersey. A small town with a population of just over 500 people.
We have a town major, played by Tony Hale (Arrested Development (TV), Veep (TV)), who loves the town though the people walk all over him. We have the business man of the town, played by Sam Jaeger (American Sniper, Lucky Number Slevin), who is married to the ‘most beautiful girl in town’, played by Heather Burns (You’ve Got Mail, Miss Congeniality).
There’s a reverend who isn’t that into God these days, played by Dan Bakkedahl (Get Hard, The Heat), a woman with no redeeming features, played by Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect, The Help) and the legendary Raymond J. Barry (Training Day, Born on the Fourth of July) as a reclusive former solider back from the war.
When the broadcast goes out announcing that aliens have landed in new Jersey, just two hours away from Lullaby, the town goes into meltdown.
The one person who takes charge is the town crazy, Barry, who talks everyone into getting ready to fight the aliens when they make their way over to Lullaby.
As the town readies itself for, well, the coming nothing. We learn more about each of them and are taken on a journey to their own redemption.
Brave New Jersey is listed as a comedy and this is a bit misleading in my opinion. There aren’t many laugh-out-loud moments, there’s a good few chuckles though.
What Brave New Jersey is, however, is a wonderful story about people finding themselves, finding what excites them, what drives them, their passion. Be it for the first time or something reborn.
Hale is very good as the put upon major, always trying to please and not speaking back to those who aren’t particularly nice to him. Bakkedahl plays the reverend very well, flipping from no-passion to finding his groove again with a real glint in his eye.
I’d like to have seen more from Barry in his role as the ‘commander’, whipping the town into readiness for the impending no-vasion. I really wanted to see a little more crazy from him.
By the same token, I’d like to have seen less of Camp and her fiancé Matt Oberg (The Bourne Legacy, Sisters). Not that either play their parts badly, I just felt that part of the storyline was a distraction from other stories that were working much better.
Their little tiff just seemed at odds with everything else going on, I couldn’t quite fathom why it was there or what I was meant to be gleaning from it, if anything.
Brave New Jersey hits at just the right time, showing the effects of the original fake news story The War of the Worlds. The sets are beautiful and it has a great message about finding yourself before it’s your last night on earth.