Here are some of the joke ideas introduced during the first 20 minutes of Never Been Thawed: a club for people who collect frozen entrees, a hardcore punk band that becomes a Christian act by changing the word "fuck" to "pray" in all their songs, a coffee chain that sets up near abortion clinics to service protesters, a clown-staffed barbershop called Klown Kutz, an "Alphabet Game & Slug Bug Invitational" tournament, and an "ex-gay" fireman who sifts through the ashes of homes for collectors' plates. (One of his prize possessions? A limited-edition D.C. Cab dish.)


Never Been Thawed's writer-director-star Sean Anders obviously grew up watching a lot of sketch comedy, and his collaborators are clearly simpatico. Together, they've created a movie that maintains the illusion of competence, in spite of a fundamental lack of discipline. After years apparently spent imitating their idols, Anders and company have learned how to reproduce the natural comic rhythm found in a Christopher Guest film, or a State routine. What's most surprising about Never Been Thawed is that it's not completely awful. It's just a little awful.

After that opening barrage of comic concepts, the movie mostly spins its wheels, repeating the original gags while trying to play up a romantic triangle between two members of the faux-Christian punk band and a devout woman who works the local Intercourse Prevention Hotline. Never Been Thawed contains an impressive number of clever throwaways, like the T-shirt that reads, "Jesus Loves You … everyone else thinks you're an asshole," and Anders' troupe knows just how deliver absurdist lines like "I capture and store my urine until I can deal with it on my own terms." Even the title—truncated as "NBT" for hardcore TV-dinner collectors—is pretty smart. But the whole production has an unearned cockiness about it, given that its jokes never go any deeper than a notion. Anders doesn't have any real purpose for his religious satire and nerd-baiting. The definition of "attitude" is to have an opinion about something, and though comedy without a point can be fleetingly funny, it'll never be as edgy as it pretends to be.