Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Cinema File #223: "InAPPropriate Comedy" Review

Being an amateur online film critic, I end up seeing a lot of movies in general, and a lot of them tend to be really bad. I rarely ever seek out bad movies, it’s just that I like to give everything a chance, and my tastes also tend to align with a few genres that are known for less than stellar productions. Being an avid fan of schlocky straight to video trash, one might think I would be better prepared for a movie as soul crushingly terrible as InAPPropriate Comedy, but after watching it, I wonder if anyone could adequately prepare themselves for the sheer terror of the undertaking. With as many reviews as I've written, I'm almost positive I've made the comparison to Lovecraft: that watching a bad film is akin to staring into the maddening maw of Cthulu himself, with all the resultant follicle draining and insanity, but never has this symbolism been more apt to describe a movie viewing experience.

Now, I must admit, that while I said I don't typically seek out bad movies, this time, I kinda did. See, InAPPropriate Comedy holds the distinction of being the second lowest grossing movie to ever receive a theatrical release, almost beating The Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure for the number one spot. Since I went out of my way to see that movie with similarly gob smacking results, I thought I might as well give this one a sit as well, and if you remember just how much that film hurt me, know how much I mean it when I say that InAPPropriate Comedy makes The Oogieloves look like The Secret of Nimh. Okay, wait, The Secret of Nimh is my favorite movie, but you have no way of knowing that, so that might not make sense. The point is, this is a really shitty movie that makes another slightly less shitty movie look like a really good one. Sorry, I'm not at my best right now. This one did a number on me.

InAPPropriate Comedy is a sketch comedy film with the flimsiest of frame stories, which basically amounts to the Shamwow Guy sitting in a chair and watching video apps on his I Pad. Now, I bet you're thinking to yourself "Wow, that sound's pretty shallow, surely they could have added a little more to it, like for instance an equally pointless second framing device within the first one that implies the entire movie takes place inside Lindsey Lohan's vagina." Well, you're in luck Fan of Very Specific Terrible Things. Oh, and did I mention she's dressed as Marilyn Monroe at the time? Because nothing says classic Hollywood grace like Lindsey fucking Lohan. Do I need to say anything more about this movie? Does anything about what I have just described make you think this is the kind of humor that might appeal to you? And if so, doesn't that make you instantly re-evaluate everything about yourself and consider making a different lifestyle choice, like, say, suicide?

But let's go on. After delving into Lohan's lady parts, we are introduced to the first sketch, and before you ask, yes, all but one of them are recurring, because when you realize how great they are the first time, you'll just be clamoring for them to mine these ingenious premises for more comedy gold. The first sketch is an oh so current and relevant parody of Dirty Harry called, get this now, Flirty Harry. What makes him flirty is that he wears pink pants and is apparently gay. Well, actually, that's not really accurate. He's not overtly gay, so much as he just speaks in constant double entendres related to gayness, all apparently based on what I gather was the impetus for the sketch, a twist on the classic phrase "Make My Day" to the contextually nonsensical "Make Me Gay." Laughing yet? No? Well, don't worry, because he'll keep making allusions to butt sex for as long as it takes until you laugh, or more likely turn off the movie as any reasonable person would. Oh, and in case I didn't mention it, he's played by OSCAR WINNER Adrian Brody, safe in the knowledge that Academy rules dictate that they can never take those things back.

After that we get a parody of Jackass, which while more recent a thing than Dirty Harry, is still a show that I'm pretty sure has been off the air for some time now. The sketch is called Blackass, and features a cadre of African American youths doing crazy Jackass-like stunts, and it is at this point that the overall thought process behind these sketches comes into view, when you realize that its less about coming up with jokes that might be funny and may or may not also be offensive, and more about starting with bigotry, and then trying (and failing) to find something funny in it. And the premise of the sketch even as racist as it is, that the typical young black man's daily life is so full of folly that its like a Jackass movie, isn't even sustained across the sketches, and this segment just becomes an excuse to show black people in the worst light possible. One sketch has them as babysitters, and devolves into a white woman locked in a room with them as they basically threaten to rob and then rape her to impregnate her against her will, and then another has one of them in a hot tub with his white girlfriend and another couple, whom they proceed to make uncomfortable by starting to have anal sex. Admittedly they do come back to the stunt formula in the end with a man using his cheese dipped penis to attract a mouse, but I wouldn't want to suggest that returning to a formula that at least makes sense justifies any of this at all.

Alright, so we've got homophobia covered, and now racism, so what's next, a completely different, possibly even somewhat original premise? Nah, fuck that, let's just have more racism. The next sketch is purported to be another reality show parody, this one based on The Amazing Race called The Amazing Racist, and basically, its just a guy going around being really racist to people. That's literally the entire joke. He's a driving instructor for Asian people, a Catholic priest trying to get Jews to apologize for the crucifixion, and a salesman at the beach selling free boat rides back to Africa to black passersby, and ironically the most offensive thing about it, at least for this extremely white guy, has nothing to do with what you would think. Even before you get to what is so obviously wrong with it, you have to grapple with the fact that the sketch has even less to do with the Amazing Race than Blackass or Flirty Harry did with Jackass or Dirty Harry respectively. Its not even like they made it a cross country competition between racists to see who the biggest racist is, which still wouldn't have been funny, but would have at least been a set up that made sense, especially in the context of white people traveling out of their element, or maybe even a commentary about how different races view each other. Flirty Harry, Blackass, and The Amazing Racist aren’t even bad premises, just bad puns upon which much simpler and arbitrary bad premises are attached.

Which isn't to distract from the whole "Racism isn't actually funny" thing. See, there's a very delicate and often elusive line between ironic racism, wherein racism itself is satirized through imitation, and pure racism as comedy, which while perfectly valid in a country founded upon free speech is never actually funny unless it is appreciated ironically. For instance, I can laugh at a Sarah Silverman joke when she plays up the comically racist bit, because the punch line is "this is the stupid way in which racists conceptualize the world," and I can even laugh at a genuinely racist comment, appreciating it as one might laugh at the anachronism of a guy riding one of those really old bikes with the giant front wheels down the highway, or an old timey boxer with a handlebar mustache, but I would never laugh at, say, a Carlos Mencia joke or one of the many examples of racist Family Guy jokes , because when they make a racist joke, I'm expected to find the racist assumption funny (ie. Asians are bad drivers), and not that the assumption itself is racist and thus rife for mockery (ie. Isn't it stupid that racists think all Asians are bad drivers?).

And what makes it even worse is that I'm fairly sure that the people behind this movie aren't actually the bigots one might think they are given the material and how it is presented; they're just really bad at comedy. They still might be really bigoted, and much of the film does indicates at the very least a poor understanding of the American experience for people who aren't straight white men, but this movie doesn't strike me as the screed of a true believer sharing his vile worldview with a presumably like minded audience a la David Allen Coe's music, which is clearly made by racists for racists. This movie is made by people who simply do not understand the distinction I noted above, and don't care to. Even worse than Ooga Booga, which I at least think was an attempt at irony that simply failed miserably, these guys have come to the erroneous conclusion that people think this kind of thing is funny, and have conflated "being offensive" or at least dealing in topics traditionally considered to be offensive, with humor. This movie isn’t akin to the virulent racist telling a racist joke, it’s the little kid who hears it and sees all the man’s racist friends laughing, and then repeats it because he doesn’t know any better.

One would think that after three sketches employing ‘humor’ entirely based on tired stereotypes, that they might eventually do something else, and they give themselves the perfect opportunity with a sketch that at least on paper is actually a potentially fun idea, satirizing Siskel and Ebert style buddy movie critic shows, only this time with two critics reviewing hardcore pornography. But no, the fake movies they review are just more lame excuses to make fun of Asian people and Gay people again. This is the first of two sketches featuring Rob Schneider, and the only one that recurs, and believe it or not, it’s the highlight of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks, but at least Schneider has the bare minimum understanding of what comedy is even if he is not very good at it. He tries to affect a voice and craft a character that in another context with better material very easily could be funny, but just isn't here. Whenever he came on screen, I rejoiced at the welcome respite, knowing that for the next few minutes, I could go back to just casually not liking the movie rather than actively hating it. Hear that movie? You've given me a new level of appreciation for Rob Schneider! Also, Michelle Rodriguez is his partner, but because she’s not punching things, it’s kind of a waste.

InAPPropriate Comedy came out around the same time as another notoriously bad sketch movie called Movie 43, which at the time I noted as quite possibly the death of comedy itself. I knew not from which I spoke, because while that movie certainly was bad, compared to this piece of crap, it was the Citizen Kane of sketch movies. The problem with Movie 43 was one of execution. All the sketches had potential, but for whatever reason they just weren’t mined for it really at all. It’s not just that the sketches in InAPPropriate Comedy aren’t funny, there’s no way they could have ever been funny from the start. That there are people who sat in a writer’s room and came up with them and somehow found them funny enough to want to make a movie of them and attach their names to it as if they were proud of them is simply flabbergasting. Quite often when I see a movie like this, I question whether there is anyone to which it might actually appeal, and only in my darkest most nihilistic conception of human nature can I picture the kind of person who would like this movie, and for the sake of my safety and my sanity, I do not ever wish to meet them.

And you know the most fucked up thing about all of this? InAPPropriate Comedy is evidently kind of a sequel to an even more obscure sketch comedy movie also made by the Shamwow guy. Go ahead and do a little research on something called The Underground Comedy Movie. According to Wikipedia, the Lindsey Lohan segment was originally filmed for the previous movie and saved for this one, and both movies apparently represent the culmination of a dream for this pitchman by day, shitty movie maker by night, his Shamwow/Slapchop business merely a stepping stone to a successful film career (well, that, and also to fund a lawsuit against Scientology for some reason). I've not seen The Underground Comedy Movie, and I'm not sure if having spent eleven paragraphs denouncing its thematic sequel, I'm now obligated to do so, but if that's the case, I'm gonna need at least a little time to recuperate. I wanna say this movie slapchopped my brain like one of Vince Offer's prostitutes, but InAPPropriate Comedy doesn't even deserve that lazy pandering reference disguised as a joke. Just...stay away.

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