Tag Archives: comedy

GLOW

Netflix Glow posterNetflix latest hit ‘own brand’ series is something of an odd fish. While their Marvel series and Better Call Saul obviously come from established franchises and others are fairly solidly angled genre pieces, GLOW seems to throw things together and hope something entertaining comes out the other end and, to a degree, it does.

Based on the story of the mid 1980s GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling promotion/show it presents a fictionalised version of the lead up to their first television taping from initial auditions to broadcast, similar to the documentary GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (also currently available on Netflix in the UK).

To make it into a drama the series focuses on one of the ladies, the apparently totally fictional Ruth (Alison Brie) a struggling actress in LA who stumbles into the wrestling show. Around her are the cast of wrestlers-to-be (including her former best friend, Betty Gilpin as Debbie) and the producer and director duo of Bash (Chris Lowell) and Sam (Marc Maron), the latter of whom becomes a kind of second lead.

To make this work the main thread of the story takes on a soap opera style, possibly also in a kind of reference to soap opera-like nature of wrestling storylines, which for me is a slightly odd construct but it works for the most part to keeps things rolling along in its half hour per show format.

GLOW - Alison Brie

Alison Brie as Ruth

Along with this though two other aspects collide in a way that makes it often a little on the unbalanced side.

The first, that certainly runs throughout, is the comedic side provided by Maron.

At its best this leads to some genuinely funny moments at which points Maron’s dry delivery is wonderful, but elsewhere it feels a little too much like he is hijacking proceedings with a very different style to the rest of the show, either way he is one of the highlights.

At the other end of the spectrum there are a few moments where the story gets a bit too serious which jars with the otherwise lighthearted tone, this particularly comes with an accidental pregnancy and abortion plot line that just doesn’t sit quite right and feels just dropped in to make up time.

Aside from this it is, for the most past, a light and colourful show a little like the one it is telling the story of (though with a far higher budget).

GLOW - Marc Maron

Marc Maron as Sam

Of course as a fan of wrestling there’s one crucial aspect that would make or break the show for me and that is its depiction of what NJPW calls ‘The King Of Sports’ (I know…). Thankfully in this it does a great job.

From the start its clear things are going in the right direction as not only does Johnny Mundo (aka John Morrison aka John Hennigan) appear as a wrestling coach but one of the regular cast is played by the artist formerly known as Kharma in WWE or Awesome/Amazing Kong elsewhere, Kia Stevens (and in a nice touch the gym is named ‘Chavo’s’ in tribute to that famed member of the Guererro family some of whom were involved with the original GLOW training).

GLOW cast

The GLOW girls

As the show goes on more pro-wrestlers cameo, notably Carlito Colon and the artist formerly known as Brodus Clay in WWE, and at no point is the actual in ring work made a joke of with a reasonable nod given to the effort required given the broader context of the show and these ladies pull off some moves that would never have been seen in the mid-80s outside of Lucha Libre.

With the series culminating, as one might expect for such a show, with an apparently triumphant first screening, GLOW is far from a classic but there’s enough to enjoy in a lighthearted guilty pleasure kind of way, particularly with its nostalgia heavy 80s soundtrack and style, and, while I’m not sure how much fuel there is for a second series, I wouldn’t be disappointed to see it go on.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baby Driver

Baby Driver posterFrom the moment Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver begins with a full volume blast of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as we focus on Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ sat in a high-powered car waiting for a heist to take place while rocking out to the sounds of his iPod it’s clear this isn’t going to be a normal crime thriller.

What this instantly sets up is something that has become a hallmark of Wright’s work, just taken to a new level, of combining two somewhat improbable genres at once. So, following the romcom/horror of Shaun Of The Dead, the teen movie/comic book movie of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World we get a musical comedy crime thriller.

A fairly simple plot device sets this up and is very well handled through the tale of Baby’s involvement with a criminal gang and his attempt to remove himself from this life.

While the part of Baby is fairly stoic Elgort brings a great presence and depth to his role and, as he in virtually every shot of the film, delivers a very impressive performance.

Ansel Elgort as Baby in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort as Baby

Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx meanwhile all look to be having a great time letting their villainous sides out and pitching it with a great deal of humour but really turning up the threat when needed (Foxx and Hamm switch to a scary level of intensity very impressively).

Like Wright’s other work though the director’s style really is the co-star as the camera flies and spins around to create some of the best driving sequences I’ve seen in along that never lose the point of the story or get lost in cgi and puts the increasingly overblown Fast & Furious movies to shame with its structural simplicity.

Along with this of course Wright adds a matching level of camera movement and action to the most mundane of tasks like making breakfast or buying coffee, making the whole film move seamlessly regardless of what’s going on and even the romantic sub-plot doesn’t feel forced.

Kevin Spacey and the gang in Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey and the gang

What all this does is create a film that takes Wright away from the ‘Cornetto trilogy’ much of his reputation is based on, and show he is more than capable of translating his style into a more action centric movie Hollywood prefers without losing the thing that makes his films what they are, leaving us with one of the most entertaining films I remember in sometime with a soundtrack to rival any in recent memory.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! posterBack in 1993 Richard Linklater took a trip back to the world of his youth with Dazed and Confused, throwing the audience headlong into the world of a Texan high school in the mid-1970s and all the typical comings and goings that went along with it, delivered by an ensemble cast of relative unknowns.

Now, 23 years later, he’s taken us back to first days of college life in Texas in September 1980 with Everybody Wants Some!! a film that is, in almost every sense, a sequel to his earlier work.

The film opens on freshman Jake pulling up at his ‘new’ residence with The Knack’s My Sharona blasting from his stereo and, as he meets his new housemates/teammates, we are again thrown into this nostalgia drenched world of pure Americana.

Jake and his new friends are all baseball players, the stars of the college campus, and the plot, what there is of it, charts the freshman’s journey through the three days leading up to the new term. It’s a whirlwind of clichés from parties, discos and bars to one night stands, stoner philosophy and chance romantic encounters hinting at something deeper we’ve come to expect form American college comedy.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

What sets it apart though is that, despite the cliché and stereotypes, Linklater and his young cast imbue the whole thing with a sense of reality and heart.

This isn’t American Pie, where it’s all slapstick and humour for the sake of it, but something more, with a sense that behind the ‘let the good times roll’ mentality, there is substance.

As the film goes on we see hints of the raw competitive nature present in this crowd of ‘jocks’ while the stoner philosophy gives way to something of an exploration of male youth identity.

Like its predecessor though what makes the film so enjoyable is that it never dwells on these subjects, it simply hints and suggests putting the idea in the viewers head before getting caught up in the next party, making it a perfect thumbnail sketch of youthfully exuberant college life.

Freshman hazing

Hazing the freshmen

Though I will admit there were a few moments earlier on where I thought it might go a bit too ‘laddish’ to use a more British expression – thankfully it never quite did.

The main cast, led by Blake Jenner as Jake, are all excellent and there is a real sense that we are watching a team, with the new freshmen being ‘guided’ by experienced sophomores into this exciting new world of not-quite-adulthood and damn any real consequences.

This seems to be something Linklater is particularly good at bringing out of his actors as while there is a nominal lead, the whole group are essential to the film and the team feeling comes across as part of both the actors and characters.

Everybody Wants SomeHighlights amongst them other than Jenner’s everyman are Glen Powell as Finn, a character in some ways akin to Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, and the almost surreal Jay Niles played by Juston Street who is a sight to behold.

You’ll notice the lack of female characters here and it is very true to say the film comes entirely from an alpha-male perspective but that is the story it is telling and the world it is set in so, for the most part, this didn’t bother me as much as I initially thought it might.

Certainly in some senses Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty superficial and it never quite hits the highs of Dazed and Confused for capturing something of a truly universal spirit.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake and Finn

Jake and Finn

Throughout though it is in turns genuine, funny and thought-provoking in a way few films manage to balance and all set to a great example of a mixtape soundtrack that spans everything from Cheap Trick and The Sugarhill Gang to Devo and Stiff Little Fingers before ending on a note that genuinely had me asking what happens for this team next or is this where the real world starts to catch up?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein posterMel Brooks has had something of a patchwork career in the film industry. While the likes of Blazing Saddles, The Producers and (for me at least) Robin Hood: Men In Tights are downright classics, Spaceballs and Dracula: Dead and Loving It are somewhat less so.

Something of a forerunner to the atrocious Dracula spoof is Brook’s 1974 movie Young Frankenstein, its fair to say that coming to it so late means there’s a lot of baggage but thankfully it far outshines that later film and lands much closer to the classics.

From the off the atmosphere to be spoofed is spot on as Brook’s apes the classic Universal horrors of the 1930s with upfront, illuminated text, credits over an ominous model shot of a castle atop a hill, all in black and white.

As one of my favourite films is James Whales’ Bride of Frankenstein from 1935 this was great to see as was the use of some of the original props and certainly original design from 1930s in Frankenstein’s laboratory.

The rest of the story follows the ancestor of Victor Von Frankenstein, Gene Wilder’s Dr Frederick Frankenstein, as he returns to the ancestral castle in Transylvania (where else? the Universal horror series always played fast and loose with traditional continuity) and his return to the experiments carried out by his great-great-grandfather.

Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder

Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder

Of course the plot isn’t really the main impetus of the film here as it’s all about the comedy so, while the direct filmic spoofing is all pretty on, it’s Wilder’s performance that is the anchor here and a great job he does.

As witnessed in many of his films he can switch from placidity to manic in a moment and its used to great effect here as he descends into a kind of madness akin to that of Frankenstein’s forebear.

As one of the writers of the film, along with Brooks, its clear the whole thing was constructed as a vehicle for Wilder who was hitting his peak at this time as, while they are now much revered parts, his appearances in The Producers and as Willy Wonka had not yet achieved the status they now have.

This doesn’t mean other performers don’t get a look in though. As with most of Brook’s films there is a sense of a company of performers and many get some great moments but it is Peter Boyle as The Creature and Marty Feldman as Igor (Eye-gor?) who get the lions share.

Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

From his first appearance Feldman is astonishing both at the physical and verbal humour of Brooks and Wilder’s script and his being part of the 1960s wave of British comedy gives his whole performance a certain feel to it that stands out from the pack.

Boyle on the other hand, for the most part, is working with the physical. Channelling Boris Karloff but playing it for laughs his stand out moment (and arguably the film’s) comes with Puttin’ On The Ritz.

This does everything Brooks does best in one place; an out-of-place musical number, delivered with a straight face and something indefinably odd that just seems to work, probably to do with the charisma and dedication of the performers.

After Puttin’ On The Ritz things a bit all over the place, something I’ve found happens in many of Brooks’ films, but thankfully enough good stuff has been going on that it holds it all together.

Marty Feldman

Marty Feldman

Certainly the idea that if something is worth doing its worth doing twice (or three times or more) seems to be how Brooks approaches his jokes but they are funny enough here to work.

In all then I have a feeling the ‘hype’ and baggage may have spoiled this one for me somewhat but I can see why it’s so well-regarded as, despite a few moments of questionable taste always present in Brooks’ work, this contains a lot of good stuff all circling the linchpin of Wilder’s performance that has to be considered one of the best all-in comedy lead roles in film history.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook PosterI approached David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook at the recommendation of a friend and, coming into it, I had very little expectation beyond what I’d remembered hearing around the time of its release which, in my mind, had made it sound like a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy – thankfully that assumption proved mostly wrong.

Certainly the film includes ‘romance’ and it does have its comedy elements, however it does this in a context of what I’d call a ‘comedy drama’ if that phrase didn’t conjure images of Sunday evening TV as much as it does.

The story follows Bradley Cooper’s Pat and picks things up as his mother arrives to collect him from a ‘mental health facility’ where, it transpires, he’s been undergoing treatment for bi-polar disorder.

From there it deals with his return to his parents house, the reactions of himself, his friends, family and neighbours to his release and the situation that led to his being incarcerated in the first place. Following this we see development of a new relationship between Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany which occurs in a way that is a good solid twist on the conventions of the Hollywood ‘rom-com’.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

The main thing that Silver Linings Playbook focusses on is the relatively taboo issue of metal health (though why it’s as taboo as it is remains largely inexplicable and with films like this that is changing).

While many films might labour this point and become a bit ‘worthy’ what David O. Russell’s work does is simply incorporate them into the story and it deals with them in a rather refreshingly honest and seemingly realistic way – though there are a few melodramatic moments, but that is part of it being a movie.

The plot too has its share of melodrama, especially in its climactic scenes which do feel a bit contrived in places (particularly as relates to the story around the bets made by Pat’s father), but again this is largely forgivable within the film’s wider context.

What really roots the film are the performances which are as open and honest as I’ve seen when dealing with these issues. Cooper and Lawrence do the main part of the work and are entirely believable throughout leading to as many moments of humour as sheer discomfort, and everything in between, which seems to excellently sum up what they are dealing with.

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver

Meanwhile Robert De Niro turns what could have been something very one note, in the role of Pat’s father, into something more with an extra layer that helps elevate the character and expose another sub-thread to Pat’s story (though he has a few Meet The Parents moments thrown in too). This comes both from the script and his performance but in the wrong hands it could have been very ham-fistedly delivered.

With an underlying message that mental health should be worked with, rather than explicitly ‘cured’, Silver Linings Playbook manages to offer a different perspective on its subject to most mainstream fare, while remaining firmly within the context of a Hollywood style film and certainly presents a lot to think about in the context of a genuinely entertaining and engaging situation comedy.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic book coverWhen the news broke last week that fantasy author Terry Pratchett had died at the age of 66 there was a great out pouring through social media from his fans around the world, myself included, with words, images and quotes from (arguably) his greatest creation, Death, being shared, liked and tweeted in abundance.

As the initial noise died down I picked up my well-loved copy of the first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic, for the first time in a few years, and as I did it got me thinking.

Along with the late great Douglas Adams, Pratchett’s writing has had a major affect on me, helping shape not only my reading habits and writing (if it weren’t for him, its likely this blog and my other writing work simply wouldn’t exist) but also my sense of humour and my general outlook on the world.

Even in this formative, first, work from his epic series its clear to see why.

Telling the story of a lowly wizard, Rincewind, and his adventures trying to protect and guide his naïve charge, the Discworld’s first tourist Twoflower, the book could easily have been a very minor footnote in the fantasy fiction world.

Rincewind by Paul Kidby

Rincewind by Paul Kidby

But, with this, Pratchett does something that takes a mundane and obvious genre piece and elevates it far higher than probably he even imagined back in the early 1980s when he began work on it.

Two things raise it up and they are its sense of the absurd and the way it uses its fantastic genre trappings to hold a mirror up to our world.

The absurdity draws on classic British humour developed by the likes of Spike Milligan and Peter Cook along with the Monty Python team. So, rather than the somewhat over serious and po-faced style that has often hindered generic fantasy, Pratchett seems to know that many of the things he depicts are inherently ridiculous and so subverts them.

He does this using the cynical, somewhat weary, worldview of Rincewind – a wizard almost incapable of even learning spells. This is contrasted with Twoflower’s wide-eyed optimism and in the meeting of the two Pratchett’s take on fantasy, that would persist for more than 40 books, was set.

Using ‘The Disc’ as a cypher of our world also begins early on and remains throughout the series as Twoflower is represented as a stereotypical tourist, the notion of insurance (and almost immediately insurance fraud) are introduced to the twin city of Ankh-Morpork – itself already a vague ‘version’ of London that would become more pronounced as time went on.

The Discworld by Paul Kidby

The Discworld by Paul Kidby

Pratchett also uses the notion that both magic and gods are real on the disc to paint a picture of how science and religion are used for good and bad in our world and, again, while this becomes more focused and pronounced later on its beginnings are still evident here as we meet some of the pantheon of the Disc’s gods as they are playing a literal game with our hero’s lives and, in the fourth portion of the book, the inhabitants of Krull as designing ways of exploring space.

What makes The Colour of Magic work so well as an enjoyable book though is that, with all this packed in, it’s an amazingly fast and enjoyable read with enough story, adventure and comedy that it rattles along at breakneck pace, while also managing to begin the creation of this most unusual and detailed world.

Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett

While it is a little rough around the edges in places, Pratchett’s concept of the Discworld isn’t quite complete yet and the episodic nature lead to a little too much repetition from time to time, the mix of comedy and fantasy, the position as the beginning of such a well-loved series of books and the fact that it is so easy to read, but not at the expense of content, make The Colour of Magic an undeniable classic both of its genre and of literature in general.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Inbetweeners 2

The Inbetweeners 2In a genre that can loosely trace its roots back to the amazing The Young Ones in the early 1980s, The Inbetweeners 2 seems to have taken it to a new low in the form of one of the most cringing 96 minutes of film I’ve ever sat through.

The film tells the story of the four protagonists of the TV show, now they’ve moved on from school and headed variously to university, work and (crucially for what is loosely called a plot) Australia. After a disastrous party weekend, which sets the bar spectacularly low, we see them go travelling/on holiday and attempt to poke fun at pretty much every trope of student life going and, for the most part its stuff we’ve seen done 100 times better, 100 times before.

Unfortunately, rather than doing what seems to be its intent and poking lighthearted, gross out, fun – or ‘Bants’ as the characters here might have it – it generally just ends up being over crass and generally offensive to pretty much everyone it sets its targets on.

The Inbetweeners 2For a start the four main characters are entirely unsympathetic stereotypes so, once they get into scrapes, I didn’t really care if they got out of them. As the movie goes on they meet, variously, typical Giles Wembley-Hogg like travellers (Marcus Brigstocke already spoofed them better), crassly stereotyped Australians, and various side characters ranging from ‘psycho’ girlfriends to transsexual prostitutes.

I think it was Bernard Manning who once tried to justify his ‘comedy’ as not being racist or sexist but offending everyone, and this falls into a similar territory, albeit possibly without the same nasty intent he seemed to have, this just feels misguided.

The Inbetweeners 2As the film rolls along it falls into the standard episodic nature of the not so well handled road movie and jokes are often repeated and remain largely unfunny. That’s not to say there weren’t a few laughs, but generally they seemed to come at points that I wasn’t sure were meant to be funny.

The highlight of the film came in the cameo from Greg Davies who’s sheer presence and slightly Rik Mayall-like nature elevated his brief appearances slightly. Unfortunately that was too little too late leaving The Inbetweeners 2 feeling like a waste of celluloid (or more like hard drive space) and its one the few films I’ve actually considered walking out of and wouldn’t have minded if I’d fallen asleep in (alongside Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom)… now where are my The Young Ones DVDs.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Toxic Avenger Part II

The Toxic Avenger Part II Blu RayThe second in Troma’s flagship franchise, and the follow-up to the film that made their name, ups the stakes in pretty much every regard as the worlds first toxic superhero returns for The Toxic Avenger Part II.

The story, which is as convoluted as you might expect, concerns Toxie once again saving Tromaville from a big evil corporation, in this case Apocalypse Inc who hint at being genuinely diabolical, while also seeking out his father who abandoned him at birth following a suggestion from his “Freudian psychiatrist” and heading to Japan to do so.

Its clear from the start that The Toxic Avenger Part II has a much bigger budget than the first film as the initial opening action sequence actually feels at least partially choreographed and seems to use actual stunt performers, while the explosive destruction of the Tromaville home for the blind is actually quite impressive.

Claire and Toxie

Toxie and his blind girlfriend Claire

This continues throughout the movie from more elaborate car chases to the more convincing gore to the whole middle sequence being shot on location in Tokyo.

Here things shift between the Troma staples of action and comedy to some oddly travelogue like moments with a rock band and dancers in a park where Toxie seems to be doing his best Michael Palin – although this being Troma they still manage to make it all look exceptionally scuzzy and pile on the stereotypes with a bath house and sumo scene and Yakuza-ish bad guys.

All this sets things at odds a bit as, despite the bigger production values (and believe me this is still low-budget, just not as low as the first), it still feels like a student film where every idea that might even slightly work is thrown at the screen to see what sticks. In the first this worked as the running time was somewhat shorter and the restricted budget worked in its favour as to what was possible, here though it does drag in sections and the genuine laughs are fewer.

toxic-avenger-part-ii-05In the end Toxie 2 continues in the footsteps of its predecessor but in an even less controlled way that leaves it not quite as enjoyable as some of the innocence of the extremely lo-fi and scuzzy original is lost, but that said, it left things on a generally good point and contained enough fun stuff to just about balance out the rest if the divisive style of Troma is your thing.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Monty Python Live (Mostly) – One Down Five To Go

Monty Python Live (mostly) - One Down Five To GoWith a career dating back to the early 1960s the six men who made up Monty Python have been largely living on nostalgia since their second proper movie (and arguable highlight) Life of Brian. So, when they announced a ‘one-off’ series of reunion live shows last year I was far from the super excited fan I might once have been.

That said, while their track record is scrappy at best with at least as many misses as hits across their TV shows and movies, there is certainly enough there to make for an entertaining two and a half hour show.

It is largely these that the show draws on but, unfortunately, many of even these fall flat as they are presented in a way that may once have been ironic for a sketch troupe, but now just feels contrived and stayed.

The production is huge, as you’d expect for a live arena show, but this sucks the life out of what the troupe did best – tightly scripted and performed sketch comedy. This is particularly well demonstrated in the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ sketch in which Eric Idle over plays his part, Terry Jones looks a bit confused and it ends segueing into a song and dance number using a mash-up of lines from the sketch that is at best tiresome.

Eric Idle

Eric Idle

Eric Idle over playing is a problem across the whole show as he seems to take a lion’s share of the stage time and use it for his many songs which, originally were funny, but are now left as overblown pastiches of what once made them work – and it really doesn’t help that his voice hasn’t held up as well as he seems to think it has.

The best moments of the show are where it reverts back to sketch format and particularly those involving Michael Palin, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam. Palin and Gilliam look like they are genuinely having fun that really helps their moments come to life and Cleese, when on stage with Palin, has a similar presence.

Gilliam, Palin and Jones

Gilliam, Palin and Jones

Thankfully this means that some of my favourite sketches, The Lumberjack Song, the vocational guidance counselor, the dead parrot, the Spanish Inquisition and the cheese shop all work very well and at points where they fluff moments they run with it in the way that shows the comedic talent these guys once had.

With a string of pointless celebrity guests spots, quite why Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers were even there is beyond me, and more over elaborate dance numbers, Monty Python Live (Mostly) is at best a mixed bag and at worst a near failure that really is only for the diehards or those masochists who want to see what was once vibrant and anarchic become so much the establishment it is, at times, painful.

It’s telling that the biggest cheers are saved for the late Graham Chapman who appears in old clips peppered throughout and who, therefore, has not become a borderline irrelevant pastiche of what Python once was.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger blu-ray

(Before I start, as a bit of warning, the last pic in the review is a bit graphic.)

While the likes of Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die and Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD are lesser known, but still relatively mainstream, entries in the Troma canon, their one film that really did crossover into wider public consciousness (it even spawned a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon series… seriously) is The Toxic Avenger.

Now available in a surprisingly good blu-ray HD transfer from 88 Films I have re-visted this king of schlock movies and, as is expected, on pretty much every level it is awful, but…

For the first part of the film every character is detestable, from Melvin, our de-facto hero and the much put upon janitor at Tromaville’s gym to the initial antagonists who are only more deplorable than our ‘hero’ and everyone else because they get their kicks from running down kids in their suped up car and getting off (literally) to the photos they take of the graphic aftermath.

While there is humour in these scenes, in a typically broad Troma kind of way, they do take some effort to get through and really only the hope that all these guys get their come-uppance carried me through.

Toxie

Toxie

Once our titular hero, aka Toxie, arrives, following a surprisingly good transformation scene, things change. Certainly political correctness remains a foreign concept, but at least pretty much everyone is given a good going over (if that makes it any better?), but finally we have someone to root for in Toxie and his newly found blind girlfriend, whom he saves from what is looking like its going to be a particular brutal fate.

From this point on this becomes a comic book movie in concept and convention, just one where the hero commits genuinely horrific acts to the bad guys while a Viz like streak of humour continues to run through the whole thing.

As is to be expected from Troma, these acts really are where the focus lies so we get death by gym equipment, maiming by sauna, a particular ‘nice’ Three Stooges eye-poke moment and many more.

Toxie and Sara

Toxie and Sara

As the film goes one thing that struck me on this watch is quite how knowing the ‘no-budget’ vibe seems to be as we get basic but none-the-less reasonably executed car stunts and fight scenes that hint that actually, it might not be as cheap as it looks. Some research suggests the film cost $500,000 so far from a blockbuster budget but with a no name cast and crew this explains how the Toxie’s ‘big moments’ were achieved.

This knowing sense really is what takes what would be an un-watchably offensive film and turns it into a watchable superhero comedy horror.

Wanda and Julie

Wanda and Julie

With a surprisingly big climactic scene that I first thought was using stock footage but actually seemed to be shot for the film, The Toxic Avenger entirely lived up to my memories and expectations (its been over a decade since I saw it) and it was clear why this is one of the jewels in Troma’s crown and the movie that made their name.

Certainly its not going to be for everyone, but if you can suspend disbelief and good taste for 80 minutes or so its schlocky combination of poorly shot and enacted sex, brutal violence and puerile comedy (with a little bit of thinly referenced social commentary) really does hit the spot.

And because I remember loving it as a kid, and having some of the toys, here’s the intro to the kids TV show based on the movie (hard to believe, even one series ever got made of this):

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,