Thursday, June 14, 2018

REVIEW: Uncle Fun: You're The One.

We had a busy cultural extravaganza this past Sunday.  My 9 year old son and I went to see two pretty great (and radically different) cultural events, rushed around like crazy to make them, had a panic moment, and recovered.  In other words, the perfect Dad Sunday.  (My wife was at a conference all weekend, so it was all dad, all the time!)

The first event was  the World Premiere of Uncle Fun: You're The One,  a documentary about the iconic but now gone toy store  Uncle Fun and its quirky owner Ted Frankel. It played at Chicago Filmmakers, a 30 year old center for budding and accomplished film-makers in my neighborhood.  (They've just moved into a new building about 8 blocks from my house)

The second event was Evanston's Music Theatre Works excellent production of Pirates of Penzance, complete with giant cast and 26 piece orchestra.  (That production plays on through June 17, and is a great production to make your child's first Gilbert and Sullivan- it's beautifully done, well-performed, and Pirates itself is a classic.  And tickets for those 25 and under are half price! If you want to buy tickets, go here right now.  Don't worry, I'll wait!)  (and I review it in the next post!)

In the meantime here is my review of Uncle Fun


Uncle Fun You're the One was a quirky labor of love.  The filmmaker, Laura Scruggs,  a Chicago based actor and playwright, was an enthusiast of the store Uncle Fun and when Frankel decided to close, she decided to make a movie about this thing she loved.  Scruggs was not alone in loving the store. It had a whole band of enthusiasts (including me, who tried to go there every time I visited Chicago,) and I was really sad when we moved here in 2014 and it was closed down.  My sister in law, who is the prop master for Whose Line Is It Anway,  (and now lives in Evanston) turned me onto the store.  We were supposed to go to the movie together, but at the last minute she got ill and couldn't make it.  She will love it when she does see it!

The quality of the video is uneven, the filmmaking narrative is a little weird, and there are moments of bizarre and amateur singing sprinkled throughout (see above trailer), but the love and care and meaning that Scruggs puts into the movie beats out all of those technical issues.  I'd much rather see a flawed artwork with heart and character than a polished artwork without a soul.  In fact, one could argue that this is in part, the message of the movie.

Scruggs love of the store, its ethos, and the owner Ted Frankel showed through.  It was nowhere more evident than when, as a special surpise, Ted Frankel  showed up at the Q and A. (He has since moved to Baltimore, where he runs the quirky gift store at my favorite museum in the whole world The American Museum of Visionary Art.)

I was on hand for the Q and A, and videotaped it.  I think you get a real flavor for Frankel and Uncle Fun and Scruggs through the Q and A.  (and my son is the one who asks the question, "What was your favorite part of owning Uncle Fun." and Ted Frankel answered "The Customers.")

Laura Scruggs, filmmaker, with Ted Frankel and Laura's husband Jake.

The movie sold out in 2 of the 3 screenings, and the management of Chicago Filmmakers said they were going to work on bringing it back.  It's a great, quirky film, and well worth seeing, especially if you were a fan of the store.  And even if you had never been, you get a great taste for the wonder that it was.

You can find out more about the movie and where it will play next  at

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