It’s hard to picture what is would have been like on the night of October 30th 1938. The night when Orson Wells along with his Mercury Theater caused quite a stir with their broadcast of a live dramatization of H.G. Wells classic “War of the Worlds.” Imagine being in a small town, listing to the radio and hearing about an alien invasion. Remember there was not a TV or three in every home at the time, and all you had is what sounded like an official news report of aliens setting out to conquer our world. Needless to say there were a lot of people who didn’t take it well and thought it was actually happening. While it scared a lot of people it also had people afterwards asking themselves what they would do if this was their last night on earth.
In a small town in New Jersey everyday life is just as mundane as can be. The mayor Clark Hill (Tony Hale) is in the midst of trying to complete his to do list that never seems to end. One of the things he is preparing to do is supply the town’s well to do family with a piece of equipment that will change the town forever. Everything does indeed change but that is brought upon by a broadcast that the whole town takes to heart. At first there the town doesn’t know what to do, while some turn to the church, others try and figure another way to deal with the impending disaster. The town starts to fall into two groups, the fighters’ lead by Captain Ambrose Collins (Raymond J. Berry) and the ones of faith lead by Reverend Ray Rogers (Dan Bakkedahl). In the middle is Mayor Clark, who tries and become the man he thinks the town needs and helps decide how they will spend their last night on earth.
Writers Michael Dowling and Jody Lambert, the later also directing, ask a question that I don’t know many people put much thought into. The question though is not one many could answer, so putting it against the backdrop of you believing this was the end, allows it to be answered clearer, though not exactly easier. The thing with “Brave New Jersey”, though, it shows that even at that time you might not be asking the right question during “the end.” This is also not told in a completely serious manner, as the goal is to make you laugh at the absurdity of what you are seeing. Unfortunately those laughs are few and far between, as even some of the members of the popular show “VEEP” can’t save it. With a premise that sounds promising on paper, the film has a hard time living up to the idea of it, and stumbles too often. This to me sounded like it would be a great way to tell this story, but it never does it get you fully aboard by the end. All is not lost though, as there are moments that make you chuckle, as you watch the events unfold. This story could have gone a few different ways, but what it does instead is hover around in the middle never being brave enough to be completely original.