Amy Bandlien Storkel & Bryan Storkel’s SXSW Doc – The Hollywood Reporter


There could also be no such factor as a victimless crime, however the transporting and promoting of Pez dispensers with out correct licensing and trademark concerns is about as shut because it will get.

Perhaps that’s why Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel’s Pez Outlaw succeeds regardless of an inventory of documentary traits that so ceaselessly annoy me — together with a heavy reliance on reenactments and a unfastened and jokey method to its material that by no means makes an attempt to have interaction with an even bigger dialog. Despite becoming in with latest docs inspecting the Beanie Baby fad and artificial diamonds, and too many documentaries about on-line fraud and corruption to rely, Pez Outlaw as an alternative settles for one thing extra frivolous and enjoyable.

Pez Outlaw

The Bottom Line

Endearingly and entertainingly insubstantial.

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Documentary Feature Competition)

Directors: Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel

1 hour 27 minutes

It’s a hoot with a little bit of coronary heart, and when you can settle for that the principle character’s actions in the end damage no person — with the doable exception of some Pez executives — its fizzy pleasures and compact working time are simple to get pleasure from.

The eponymous Pez Outlaw is Steve Glew, who battled melancholy as a machinist in a Michigan manufacturing facility within the early Nineties till he discovered an outlet in amassing. What began as an off-the-cuff obsession with cereal bins discovered true function when Glew found Pez dispensers. Soon, Glew and his son Josh had been touring to corners of Europe nonetheless recovering after the autumn of the Iron Curtain looking for out Pez factories and distinctive merchandise that by no means made their manner throughout the Atlantic. Armed together with his life’s financial savings, financial institution loans and duffel luggage, Glew labored his manner by way of the Pez underground, assembly creatively thwarted designers and ethically versatile white-collar employees completely happy to weigh him down with colourful plastic trinkets that he then offered for a whole bunch and 1000’s of {dollars}.

Glew was capable of carry numerous dispensers into the nation due to a customs loophole left uncovered by Pez’s American company places of work, however that didn’t cease the American Pez brass from attempting to carry him down by any means crucial.

On its floor, Pez Outlaw tells a foolish story and the administrators aren’t inclined to dig very deep into Glew’s psychological well being, into precise trademark legislation or into connections between Pez and any corresponding present bubbles. Heck, even the comparably skinny HBO Max documentary Beanie Mania referenced cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Instead, Pez Outlaw goes for a story of sugar-fueled, globetrotting skulduggery by which the stakes are solely private. For Glew, the title “Pez Outlaw” was self-assigned, and it factors to a person who was determined for a option to outline and mythologize a life by which he struggled to search out which means. Making himself right into a Robin Hood-like determine and giving himself a fierce adversary in Pez USA CEO and president Scott McWhinnie gave him validation past no matter cash his enterprise was bringing in.

That brings us to the reenactments, that are shot like a heist movie or, greater than that, an espionage thriller within the vein of Glew’s favourite writer, Tom Clancy. Glew, with an extended beard and a love of bucket hats, performs himself within the reenactments, one other alternative for self-lionizing. The Storkels discover vigorous amusement within the conventions of assorted genres, from the split-screens capturing a paranoid pursuit to the burst of Willy Wonka-inspired whimsy of Glew’s first arrival on the Kolinska manufacturing facility. Glew is attending to act out the cinematic illustration of his outlaw fantasy, whereas numerous speaking heads provide their very own variations of occasions, typically burnishing Glew’s tales and sometimes debunking.

It’s so gentle and infrequently foolish that Pez Outlaw may drift away on pure narrative helium had been it not for the presence of Glew’s spouse Kathy. More than one interview topic in Pez Outlaw describes Glew in bodily phrases normally reserved for backyard gnomes, however when Kathy says that when she first met him, it was “lust at first sight,” you’ll be able to inform she means it. Kathy doesn’t precisely floor Glew, however she situates his larger-than-life antics inside the confines of a household unit. Maybe Glew isn’t actually Robin Hood-esque, as a result of he isn’t precisely giving his Pez proceeds to the poor, however Kathy and Josh and daughter Moriah carry his kindness as an alternative of his greater than ample eccentricities to the forefront.

Or possibly Glew’s coronary heart stands out due to the assorted weirdos the documentary surrounds him with. Those embody Johann Patek, a fellow collector who retains insisting to the administrators that they’re making a film concerning the improper particular person, or Bud Damberg, a 15-year Pez veteran who lists the corporate’s litany of counter-maneuvers in opposition to Glew with none consciousness that the actions is perhaps disproportionate. There are individuals in Pez Outlaw who wish to criticize Glew or make enjoyable of him, however you’ll be able to watch the documentary with out ever understanding an actual trigger for the animosity. At the very worst, Glew is a goofy man with a goofy compulsion and a few a lot much less goofy points — he’s bipolar and OCD on the very least — who discovered a goofy, nostalgia-fueled outlet. And who amongst us can’t relate?

Now are there darker nooks and crannies that the administrators don’t pursue? I’m positive, however I’m additionally undecided I’d must see them. Throughout Pez Outlaw, I saved pondering how simply this might have grow to be a six-hour HBO docuseries or an eight-hour Netflix sequence and the way a lot I appreciated the restraint. This is simply sufficient Steve Glew, simply sufficient jazzy reenactments, simply sufficient amusing Pez dispenser close-ups. Just sufficient. How uncommon is that?


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