These Cops Enforce the State’s Defunct Blue Laws

In the mini-movie 'Pointless and Anachronistic Laws Squad,' officers are making sure ridiculous rules don't go unnoticed.

Image via Pica Films

Image via Pica Films

Massachusetts—in some respects—is known for its old-school, Puritanical Blue Laws that still sit on the books, yet go ignored by officials due to their ridiculousness in today’s world.

But imagine if officers actually enforced the outdated rules and regulations, and came knocking on people’s doors when they violated laws written for residents that originally founded the state. That was the vision of Matt Relstab, Billy Wirasnik, and a team of friends at Pica Films when they created the Pointless and Anachronistic Laws Squad, or P.A.L.S, for the 48 Hour Film Project and festival that was recently held in Boston.

“This was a small protest against the Puritan regime that runs Boston,” Relstab said.

Set like a classic “buddy cop” film, and partly inspired by the city’s strict licensing process, the premise of their eight-minute movie was to highlight out-of-touch illegal activities that still haunt the Massachusetts General Laws’ rulebook. The movie was featured at the 48 Hour Film Project on May 7, which challenges filmmakers from New England to put together an entire short in a weekend’s time. P.A.L.S. now stands a chance to advance to the “best of” event being held in June.

After some digging, the producers focused their project on outlandish regulations like trading a live animal as a prize in a game or contest (General Laws Part IV, Title I, Chapter 272, Section 80F) and fining people for effacing milk cartons and cans (General Laws Part IV, Title I, Chapter 266, Section 128).

“We had already been talking about doing a buddy cop movie so we were trying to figure out how we could keep that interesting. Emily Ferrier, Billy’s wife, had looked up some old blue laws that were still hanging around and Zack Smola, another writer, came up with the acronym P.A.L.S,” said Relstab. “There was no going back after that. I feel like there’s weird, old laws still on the books in most cities, but more so here because of Boston’s Puritan history.”

The mini-film used a sampling of Massachusetts General Laws that are still verified online, but also added in a few that they had read about but could not locate on the state legislature’s website. Those extras were added for comedic value to give the project an extra edge, which paid off when P.A.L.S. aired at the 48 Hour Film festival earlier this month. “At times it was hard to hear the dialogue over the crowd laughing, so we’re assuming it went over well,” said Relstab.

The group behind the short movie hopes that the positive reaction from event attendees will help launch them toward an additional showing on June 5, at the Kendall Square Cinema. It’s there that officials who organize the annual festival pick the top films from the cluster and put them back on the big screen for viewers to enjoy. “I guess we’ll see how much the judges like it when we find out if we move on,” said Relstab.

P.A.L.S. from Pica Films on Vimeo.