Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Who wants a sip of Shock Cinema #37?

According to the Shock Cinema web-page, issue #37 will be available at the end of the month. For those who can't wait nearly that long to skip over my reviews here's one you can ignore right now!

That’s Adequate (1989; Just For The Hell Of It) Satirical targets don’t come any more ambitious or obscure than MGM’s That’s Entertainment series and for that reason alone Harry Hurwitz’s That’s Adequate deserves credit even if it isn’t entirely successful.

Made in the days when the mockumentary had yet to become synonymous with bad, self-indulgent improv, That’s Adequate chronicles the 60 year output of Adequate Pictures a low budget film studio responsible for such forgotten classics as Slut of the South (a pornographic rip-off of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of the Nation) and the Third Reich financed bio-flick Young Adolf. Sketch comedy movies by their very nature are uneven but That’s Adequate is uneven in a way that’s almost schizophrenic. It’s a film that is at once clever and insultingly stupid. When the film works you get bits like Brother Theodore hosting a kids show, an Itchy and Scratchy-esque take on the Three Stooges, a skewering of the rah, rah jingoism of war movies, a deconstruction of Hitchcock’s signature cameos and a News on the March type newsreel where correspondent Chuck McCann badly fakes current events (McCann on the Hindenburg disaster, “Oh my gosh and golly! Look at go!”). But when it fails it fails on the laziest most obvious level possible. For every smart parody there’s at least three or four that simply take up space such as the sci-fi movie where people are attacked by a backed up toilet and the musical in which a guy in latex penis costume tap dances to banjo music. Obviously scatological humor isn’t necessarily a bad thing I’m just saying that we need to put a little creativity behind it. What’s wrong with giving the audience a fart joke that makes them think?

I also hated the fact that a majority of the film is made up of clips from old public domain movies that are dubbed over with shouting voices and cartoon sound effects. If that wasn’t creatively bankrupt enough, the premise for their Jazz Singer parody - Singing in the Synagogue- is blatantly stolen from an old episode of SCTV.

Luckily, however the film’s all star cast occasionally distracts attention away from its more annoying flaws. In his final role, James Coco is hilarious as the sleazy CEO of Adequate Pictures who at one point wistfully reminisces with Joe Franklin over the first time he “saw an elephant shit”. Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara practically steal the show as a pair vapid garment manufacturers who merge with Adequate and produce product placement heavy sci-fi films. Rounding out the cast are cameo appearances from Robert Downey Jr. as a sort of pirate version of Einstein, Susan Dey blowing a guy, a young Ben Stiller, Bruce Willis when he still struggled under the misconception that people found him funny, Maureen McCormick, that kid who played Fred Savage’s best friend on The Wonder Years (I could look up his name but why bother), fucking Sinbad, most of the original cast from HBO’s Not Necessarily the News and Robert Townsend playing the type of demeaning stereotype he railed against in Hollywood Shuffle.

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