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DVD Review: The Onion Movie

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As everyone already knows, The Onion is "America's Finest News Source." At least, that is what the website and the DVD cover say, and we all believe everything that is on a website and printed on a DVD, just like we all know that FOX News is fair and balanced. Not only is The Onion a prominent representative of the 'net, it is now invading video stores and your television set, should you choose to subject yourself to it.

It just so happens that The Onion Movie is my first exposure to the satirical news source. That's right, I generally choose to remain mostly ignorant with regard to our government and world events, instead spending my time buried in movies, music, and other assorted entertainment materials. Now, the thinking behind this movie is genius! They are spreading the word of The Onion to those who avoid news-related sites by putting a shiny metallic disk in their hands. For us movie fans, these disks are like Kryptonite, we are helpless in their presence. I took the disk and watched the movie, thus learning a bit about The Onion.

The Onion Movie is, essentially, a collection of skits with something resembling a plot woven into the spaces in between. It is not so much a movie as it is a long episode of Saturday Night Live or MadTV. Is it any good? Yes and no. It is fitfully funny in places, in others it is a drawn out bore, not unlike recent episodes of those two Saturday night shows (at least SNL anyway). It is something that would have made a good 60-minute (with commercials, so let's say about 40 minutes) special on Comedy Central, but it runs 80 minutes without commercials and feels awfully long as some of the skits take too long to finish and don't have much funny stuff to sustain them.

Veteran actor Len Cariou, who has appeared in many films and television shows such as Flags of Our Fathers, About Schmidt, Law & Order, and Star Trek: Voyager, stars as well-respected anchorman Norm Archer. The straight-faced newsman reads the stories with an air of importance, giving them the gravitas they deserve. All is going fine until the station is bought by international conglomerate Global Tetrahedron. As we all know, when something as big as the company in the film is becomes involved with something smaller, there will be a movement towards synergy, a synergy that helps promote the big fish. Before you can blink, the company's mascot, a penguin, is seen walking across the screen during the news broadcast. Norm does not take too kindly to this. This makes up the plot that plays out between the skits.

The bread and butter of the movie are the skits. Unfortunately, they only sporadically work. I am going to go through a few of the skits, but will avoid giving too much detail. The opening bit about the neckbelts is funny. The gag with the armed gunman is pretty funny, too, although I think it (like many of the bits) goes a bit long. The terrorist training is quite funny, featuring comedian Ahmed Ahmed, who was recently featured in Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show.The headlines are generally funny, as are the side bits where people discuss the movie as it is happening. I particularly enjoyed the Melissa Cherry segment, which sends up pop stars and their image, however, the bit does seem a little bit dated.

On the other end of the spectrum are skits focusing on computer upgrades, wiggers, rape party games, and Dungeons & Dragons that just go nowhere. Some of these are dreadfully dull. Perhaps, if they were seriously cut down in length they would be all right. The reality is, they just bring little to the table.

It is interesting to note, and perhaps telling, that this was shot back in 2003 and it is only now that the movie is seeing a straight to video release. The timing makes sense, especially considering the Melissa Cherry/Britney skewering. I have read that the initial test screenings did not go well, leading to its shelving until now.

Audio/Video. Nothing special. An average transfer with no defects, but this isn't a big action film and does not require an eye-popping transfer.


  • Deleted Scenes. Roughly ten minutes of scenes that didn't make the final cut. Moderately funny, but nothing that would have improved the movie.
  • Outtakes. Three and a half minutes of your standard goofs and line flubs.

Bottom line. It has its moments of hilarity, but nothing that will stay with you for long. The Onion is about timely satirical news, and translating that into a feature takes away the timeliness, which cuts a good chunk of what makes it successful. I guess this is an all right movie, but I wouldn't spend much for it.

Mildly Recommended.

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