The idea of crafting nostalgia comedies is already tiring. Streamers have set up way too many comedies and dramas based around the power this creates in their audience, but rarely do these settings feel authentic. However, when a comedy can use it to amplify its messages, rather than rely on the era for nostalgia, it can be far more powerful. Millennium Bugs certainly qualifies in this category, allowing its premise to provide fertile ground for character work. From director Alejandro Montoya Marín, Millennium Bugs succeeds in bringing the Kevin Smith slacker comedy to two of the most enduring characters of the year.
Millennium Bugs follows Kelly (Katy Erin), a young woman struggling in the days before Y2K. The inheritance left to her by her parents is gone. Her relationships with friends and family are strained. Miguel (Michael Lovato), her best friend, works at a video store and does stand up on the side. Miguel’s family believes he’s destined for great things in school, but he wants to go to Los Angeles and pursue his comedy career.
Montoya brings his script to life by allowing us to feel moments with the characters. This becomes the most important aspect of buying in on Millennium Bugs. The two leads vacillate between highly likable and very frustrating for the audience. Erin and Lovato each bring the emotion needed to the screenplay, even if the occasional moment falls flat. Most importantly, their chemistry allows the jokes to crackle off the page and suck us into their journey.
Another trapdoor that Montoya avoids is the overexplained joke. In most nostalgia films, characters make period references but overexplain why it’s funny because characters from the era would already get the joke. These one-liners are often meant to remind audiences or introduce younger audiences to the lampooned subject. Instead, Montoya lets the insults fly, the character processes the joke and then reacts accordingly. There’s no reason to add context to the joke because it actually works in its given form. Screenwriting this strong rarely earns the recognition it deserves.
Using the eve of Y2K ultimately proves a powerful setting because of the wayward approach both Kelly and Miguel have toward life. They believe in themselves and their dreams, but neither wants to make the big move first. In Kelly’s case, her life as she knew it is over, but she would rather stay in arrested development than move to the next chapter. The setting becomes a powerful tool because as the world waited for potential doom, nothing happened. Montoya’s approach to the quarter-life crisis feels unique, and as a result, allows the choices our characters make more impactful at the end of Millennium Bugs.
Unfortunately, the editing allows some scenes to linger a little too long. The extra beats here and there add up. What should be an eighty-minute comedy bloats to its current runtime. The added time between jokes often feels excessive and does hurt the performer’s ability to land their jokes or reactions without them feeling awkward. There are already moments when Erin and Lovato push too far and miss the desired emotion. These extended sequences only make this more likely.
Millennium Bugs may not be perfect, but there’s plenty on the bone to pull from. Montoya writes relationships well, and the subtleties he brings out prove his talent. With some tighter sequences, the comedy will flow better, and his characters will not overstretch the emotion. This trip back to 1999 was worth the journey, and never feels like its hellbent on exploiting nostalgia for its laughs.