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Comedy Crapalcade!

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According to my built-in Microsoft Dictionary thingy, the word “comedy” can refer to “a funny movie depicting amusing events.” Granted, this same built-in Microsoft Dictionary thing often tries to convince me that certain words — such as “crash,” “infidel” and “Luxemburg” — do not, in fact, exist. But, of course, that’s all completely irrelevant, and I should probably go ahead and point out now that the art of humor — much like beauty — is entirely within the eye of the beholder. Example: many people are under the impression that Will Ferrell is a funny man. Personally, I am not one of those individuals who holds true to such a belief; instead, I tend to chuckle away at the amusing slapstick antics of certain Alaskan politicians.

My point? Oh, none really: I just had to write an introduction for this chapter of Catching Up At The Video Store, which I have decided to christen “Comedy Crapalcade!” as it focuses on nothing but so-called “comedies.”

[Huh, what do you know…my built-in Microsoft Dictionary thingy actually seems to think “crapalcade” is a real word. Now that’s funny!]

· The Freebie (2010) (Phase 4 Films)

The Short Version: An indie comedy about mutual infidelity (or was it Mutual of Omaha?).

The Slightly-Elongated Version: It’s something that is capable of sending a paralyzing chill up one’s spine; the mere utterance of it can wholly make or break a relationship. It’s called Dax Shepard, and it’s reported to be a comedian. I recall seeing its oddly-constructed face once before in something called When In Rome (a film I detested, by the way — as it thoroughly and wholeheartedly sucked), wherein it gave me nightmares for weeks. In The Freebie, Dax plays a male human being. Sure, that in itself is a stretch, but wait for it: here, the thing is married to former Miss Maine Teen 1995, Katie Aselton. The film (which was also written and directed by Ms. Aselton) involves a young couple (played by Aselton and Shepard) who decide to give each other a night off to literally fuck around with someone else. Is it funny? Poignant? Or even worth the monthly Netflix rental fee? Hey, who cares: just sit back and laugh at that Dax creature portraying a member of the Homo sapiens species.

· Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

The Short Version: Street artist Banksy makes a documentary.

The Slightly-Elongated Version: In the fine tradition of such “mainstream” classics as This Is Spinal Tap — or even the mind-numbing mondo class-icks such as the oh-so-epic Brutes And Savages, Exit Through The Gift Shop is a documentary of a different color: a mockumentary, if you will. The story starts out as a look at notorious British street artist Banksy by would-be filmmaker Thierry Guetta. Banksy, however, has different ideas — and decides to turn the entire project around and poke fun at Guetta when his attempt at a street art show goes horribly (and deliberately — as it’s not actually real) awry. Ha, that Banksy feller: what a kidder!

· Trailer Park Boys: The Complete First Season (2001) (Phase 4 Films)

The Short Version: A television spin-off of the 1999 film of the same name.

The Slightly-Elongated Version: If the title isn’t enough to clue you in on the subject matter, Trailer Park Boys is a fictional comedy from the wonderful world of Canadian TV about a group of fellas that reside in a trailer park. Throughout the series (which lasted for seven seasons), a documentary crew follows the wrongdoings of childhood pals Ricky (Robb Wells) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay): two criminals who just can’t seem to catch a break — no matter how many half-assed get-rich-quick schemes they hatch, often with the willing assistance from their man-child of a colleague, Bubbles (Mike Smith). Personally, it reminds me a lot of my hometown. Sad, really…but still funny, right?

· Leaves Of Grass (2009) (First Look Studios)

The Short Version: Edward Norton battles Richard Dreyfuss to the death. Or something like that.

The Slightly-Elongated Version: An Ivy League professor (Edward Norton) gets called back to his hometown in Oklahoma when he learns that his twin-brother — a local pot-grower (also Norton) — has been killed in a drug deal by a powerful Jewish drug lord (Richard Dreyfuss) who has been setting up shop there. Written and directed by actor Tim Blake Nelson, Leaves Of Grass has a very “Coen Brothers” feel about it (Nelson himself was in the Coens’ classic O Brother, Where Art Thou?, so maybe great minds think alike?): the feature offers up a number of bizarre characters and twists — all of which are laced with a noticeable serving of very dark humor. Susan Sarandon and Keri Russell co-star. The title is also available on Blu-ray for those of you who feel seeing dueling Edward Norton performances are best seen in High-Definition (which I find funny).

· All American Orgy (2009) (Phase 4 Films)

The Short Version: Group sex sucks. Well, it does for these schmucks, at least.

The Slightly-Elongated Version: Originally known as Cummings Farm, All American Orgy tells the tale of three couples — all of whom have their marital problems over one situation or another — who decide to take a trip up to a strawberry farm and experiment in group sex. Naturally, things don’t go as planned. While it borders close on being nothing more than a flaccid (ha-ha) domestic drama about six neurotic morons who just can’t accept the fact that they’re stupid, it’s still technically a comedy — even if it isn’t a very good one. Obviously, the distributor took note of how unmoving of a moving picture it really is: how else does one explain their changing the title and giving the DVD some very deceptive cover artwork to cater to the college-aged males (which, in-turn, makes it funny)?

· Aaah! Zombies!! (2007) (MVD Visual)

The Short Version: Oh, goodie: it’s another stupid zombie comedy.

The Slightly-Elongated Version: I’m not sure who to blame for the recent zombie craze, but whoever they are, they’re going to pay. Shaun Of The Dead was great and all — injecting the living dead formula with a dose of life — but, sadly, it opened the door for people to make movies like Zombieland, thus ruining a once-holy horror genre (just like Twilight did for vampires). Originally known by the much-more-catchy and far-less inept-sounding Wasting Away, Aaah! Zombies!! brings us a tale from the undead point of view. Four freeloading pals wind up being contaminated by some toxic waste, which turns them into zombies. However, the world remains a bright and cheery place for them, while the rest of the human race starts to zoom by. The approach in itself is a nice little novelty, but ultimately, the movie simply seems to chew its own feet off and then stumble over them due to some weak characters and writing. Still, “A” for Effort, right? Or maybe an “F” for Funny?

Hey, you be the judge. Happy viewing either way, kids!

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.