THE RIDICULOUS 6 (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Written by: Tim Herlihy & Adam Sandler

Starring: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Nick Swardson, Steve Zahn, Julia Jones, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Jon Lovitz & John Turturro

Adam Sandler is a polarizing comedian. He was hugely successful in the 90s with recurring sketches on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and this was followed by a series of hit comedies (the best of which is easily HAPPY GILMORE). Somewhere around the mid-2000’s, the quality of Sandler’s output went downhill and he’s progressively gotten lazier and more unfunny as the years have rolled on. We’ve gotten to a point where studios have passed on Sandler’s ideas and he’s signed an eight-film(!) deal with Netflix. 2015’s THE RIDICULOUS 6 is the first of these eight straight-to-Netflix Sandler films, earning a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and breaking Netflix records as their most-watched film. While RIDICULOUS 6 isn’t Sandler’s worst movie, it’s definitely on the low end of his filmography.

Set in the Old West, the story follows Tom “White Knife” Stockburn (Adam Sandler). Tom never knew his father and was raised by a Native American tribe. One day, Tom’s deadbeat dad (Nick Nolte) inexplicably walks back into his life and is promptly kidnapped by an outlaw gang, led by fearsome murderer Cicero (Danny Trejo). In order to rescue his father, Tom begins robbing banks…only to realize that his dad had five other children with five other women. The gang of six misfit brothers sets off on an adventure that sees them stealing from various jerks, encountering historical figures, and ending up in (what else) an Old West gun fight. Meanwhile, about 1/4th of the jokes get laughs and 3/4ths fall flat.

Adam Sandler phones in his performance as White Knife. He seems to be trying to do a gruff Clint Eastwood impression, but lacks any charisma and the faintest bit of effort in this part. Sandler as a straight-man never should have been attempted in the first place, because he doesn’t seem fit for this part in comedy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might have preferred a more over-the-top, silly-voiced Sandler as the lead. Even more surprising is that Rob Schneider isn’t half-bad as the stereotypical Mexican brother and actually got a few chuckles out of me.

Delivering the worst performance in the film, Taylor Lautner is godawful as a high-pitched hillbilly. Nearly every moment he’s on screen is insufferable. Almost as bad as Lautner is Jorge Garcia (a.k.a. Hurley from LOST) who plays an incomprehensible mountain man. Luke Wilson and Terry Crews are also in this movie as the two other brothers and they don’t contribute much to the proceedings or laughs. Danny Trejo and Nick Nolte also show up, but are clearly phoning it in.

To its credit, THE RIDICULOUS 6 looks like it had a budget behind it. There’s only one scene of cheap CGI and that comes early on. The sets and cinematography are rather well done for a western comedy spoof, though I still much prefer Seth MacFarlane’s serviceable A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST over this. Two of RIDICULOUS 6’s main problem comes from its long running time and messy pacing. This film almost feels like an endurance test, because the story frequently meanders and there are many dull moments. If it ran at 90 minutes, this might have been far better. The first hour is dedicated to the brothers running into each other, following a predictable pattern of: the characters going to a location, meeting another brother, and then going to another location.

Three-quarters of the jokes in RIDICULOUS 6 are lame. This isn’t because they’re offensive and gross, but rather because they’re just plain lazy. The juvenile bits include: a donkey with explosive diarrhea, bestiality, farting, a fly getting castrated, charades for sex, and crude-sounding Native American names. Are we having fun yet? No, but what about a long musical number around a campfire that comes out of nowhere and lasts for nearly 5 minutes. Still not laughing, but what about half-assed cameo appearances from Vanilla Ice (as Mark Twain), David Spade (as Colonel Muster), Chris Kattan (as John Wilkes Booth), and Jon Lovitz (as a snobby rich poker player)? I wanted to laugh at Vanilla Ice playing one of America’s most celebrated writers, but they do nothing with it. The joke is simply him appearing as that character and nothing else.

Though I’m railing on this film’s flaccid excuses for humor, there are a handful of genuine laughs to be had. These are few and far between, but they do exist. Early cracks about the racism of the time made me giggle, while cross-eyed Steve Zahn gets a few good moments as a gun-toting hick. Steve Buscemi makes the most of his time as the small-town doctor/barber. Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel gets the darkest laugh of the entire movie and John Turturro is fantastic as the inventor of baseball (who makes up rules to avoid being beaten at his own game).

THE RIDICULOUS 6 is not Adam Sandler’s worst film because there are a few good laughs in this mess of a movie. That’s more than I can say about the likes of GROWN UPS and JACK AND JILL. A bloated running time and monotonous story take an unfixable toll on the proceedings, one that’s further hindered by a majority of the would-be jokes falling flat. I really hope that THE RIDICULOUS 6 winds up being the worst Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix film, because this lazy and that in itself seems a little insulting to the Sandman’s fanbase.

Grade: D

SCREWED (2000)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude and Sex-Related Humor, Nudity, Language, some Violence and brief Drug Content

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Directed by: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

Written by: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

Starring: Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, Elaine Stritch, Daniel Benzali, Sarah Silverman & Sherman Hemsley

For a period in the 90’s, Norm Macdonald delivered his unique brand of humor on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Norm also followed in the steps of countless other SNL stars (Sandler, Myers, Ferrell) and headlined two comedies in an attempt to become a big screen comedic star. With 1998’s okay enough DIRTY WORK flopping at the box office and not leaving much of an impact on mainstream audiences,  Norm found a second chance with 2000’s SCREWED. Unfortunately, this would-be comedy earns its descriptive title. SCREWED wastes comedic talent on a mediocre, lazy script. There are a few mild chuckles to be found, but most of the 81-minute running time is spent on dusty jokes and dead air.

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Willard Fillmore (Norm Macdonald) has worked fifteen years as a servant for crotchety Mrs. Crock (Elaine Stritch). Crock is as wealthy as she is stingy and Willard is tired of her constant abuse. After a particularly miserable Christmas, Willard decides to get revenge on Crock by kidnapping her tiny dog and ransoming it for 1 million dollars. When the dog escapes, Crock misinterprets the ransom note and assumes that Willard has been kidnapped. Willard and his best friend Rusty (Dave Chappelle) decide to try to manipulate the chaotic situation in their favor. This ever-changing scheme involves a higher ransom and the help of creepy mortician Grover (Danny DeVito). However, things quickly go off the rails when Crock refuses to pay the ransom and hard-headed Detective Tom Dewey (Daniel Benzali) begins putting the pieces together. Now, Willard, Rusty and Grover are just trying to avoid getting screwed! See what I did there? If this movie isn’t going to try, then why should I?

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To be perfectly honest, I love Norm Macdonald. His wacky persona cracks me up. Though his goofy line delivery works in stand-up comedy and podcasts, Norm’s sense of humor doesn’t seem to translate well onto film. That or he just got saddled with two movies that were undeserving of his talent. At least, DIRTY WORK had a few hilarious moments and kept an energetic momentum going throughout. SCREWED feels dead on its feet from start to finish. The film runs at 81 minutes (counting credits) and feels like an agonizingly long experience. Much of this comes from sheer laziness and unfunny gags. The film has a poop joke here, some overused dialogue there, and is half-assed the whole way through. Dave Chappelle knocks people out with desk lamps as a nervous habit. Isn’t that funny? Elaine Stritch yells a lot as the grumpy old lady. Doesn’t that sound hysterical? Also, nearly everybody gets double crossed and the plot forgets to make these bits funny. This is exactly what you want to see in a Norm Macdonald comedy, right?

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SCREWED packs in a lot of plot twists that might have been funny if the tiniest piece of discernible effort had been put into the screenplay or performances. Norm seems to be phoning it in as Willard and the same can be said about Dave Chappelle as his best friend. At least, Danny DeVito attempted to have some fun as the ghoulish mortician and elicited a handful of chuckles from me. His character becomes unfunny around the final third of the film though, when the screenplay feels the need to throw in as many revelations as possible and neglects to give him much to do. Elaine Stritch seemed to be taking this role purely for a quick paycheck. Meanwhile, Sarah Silverman plays a side character who comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t receive anything that’s worthy of a single laugh.

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The extent of SCREWED’s laziness fully comes through in an obviously wacky score that seems like it was plucked out of a million other generic comedies and cinematography that’s just plain ugly to look at. I know that the only connection between these two films is Norm Macdonald, but DIRTY WORK was a far superior movie and even that wasn’t extraordinarily funny. SCREWED has mostly been forgotten to the sands of time. This movie bombed during its theatrical run (failing to make back enough to cover its 10 million dollar budget) and though some folks online consider it to be underrated, I found it to be an almost painfully unfunny film to sit through. It’s a real pity that Norm Macdonald couldn’t make it big in Hollywood. His goofy sense of humor works wonders and I consider him to be among the very best that SNL ever had to offer. A decision to watch SCREWED will leave you screwed out of 81 minutes of your life. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Grade: D

DIRTY WORK (1998)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude Sexual Humor and Language

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Directed by: Bob Saget

Written by: Frank Sebastiano, Norm Macdonald & Fred Wolf

Starring: Norm Macdonald, Artie Lange, Jack Warden, Traylor Howard, Chris Farley, Christopher McDonald & Chevy Chase

DIRTY WORK was released during a time when Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and Chris Farley were up and coming comedic talents. With two of those three being SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alumni, it seemed like there were extra efforts made to launch SNL cast members into big screen superstardom. Norm Macdonald and his oddball sense of humor never quite succeeded as a box office draw. McDonald is front and center in the underappreciated DIRTY WORK, an entertainingly juvenile comedy directed by none other than Bob Saget (fresh out of FULL HOUSE). The film isn’t high art or near the level of other well-known 90’s comedies, but it’s funny and just plain fun for 82 minutes.

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Mitch Weaver (Norm Macdonald) has grown up with the life lesson of “never take crap from anybody,” but that’s all he seems to be taking on a daily basis. During one particularly terrible day, Mitch loses is job, is dumped by his girlfriend and his best friend’s father Pops (Jack Warden) has a heart attack. In order to save Pops’ life, Mitch and his best friend Sam (Artie Lange, from MAD TV) have to raise 50 thousand dollars within two weeks. When their efforts to make an honest living fail, the pair decide to start an unconventional revenge-for-hire business. This gains Mitch the eye of attractive love-interest Kathy (Traylor Howard) and turns a corrupt businessman (Christopher McDonald) against him.

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DIRTY WORK runs for only 82 minutes, meaning this movie is never given much room to wear out its welcome. The film moves from set piece to set piece with the skeleton of a story holding it all together. The overall plot is flimsy at best, but the film keeps a solid pace and delivers a handful of big laughs. The set pieces range from goofy to crude to just plain odd (after all, this film stars Norm Macdonald), with most of them being very funny. There are a few jokes that fall flat, mainly in two annoying running gags. The first is that Pops uses the word “whore” as much as humanly possible in an effort for cheap laughs. The second is that Mitch constantly records notes to himself and all of these are lame.

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DIRTY WORK delivers in its crazy revenge scenarios, giving viewers the satisfaction of watching jerks get their well-deserved comeuppances. The victims of Mitch’s business are mostly cameos, the biggest of which I won’t dare spoil here (there was a recognizable face that got an audible reaction out of me), but these include the likes of Don Rickles as an abusive movie theater manager and David Koechner as a crooked car salesman. Norm Macdonald plays lovable loser Mitch, but I only saw Norm Macdonald on the screen. This might have resulted from my borderline obsession with this strange comedian or his character being poorly written.

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Artie Lange is good enough as goofy sidekick Sam, while Jack Warden is well-cast as Pops (even if his whore jokes did become rather tiresome). Traylor Howard barely receives enough screen time to resonate and I completely forgot about her one-note character a third of the way into the film, until she reappeared to move the plot forward. Christopher McDonald is underused as evil businessman Travis Cole and basically plays HAPPY GILMORE’s Shooter McGavin under a different name. Chris Farley screams, yells, and thrashes his arms as a drunken man who had his nose bitten off by a hooker. His performance is just as colorful and outrageous as that character sounds. The funniest side character of the entire film is easily Chevy Chase as a doctor who’s in deep with thuggish bookies. His brief moments are the film’s biggest highlights.

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DIRTY WORK’s brisk running time simultaneously works for and against the film. The plot feels like it’s hitting expected notes and beats out of mere obligation, as opposed to a natural progression of events. The set pieces are great, but the story is flaky. The acting ranges all across the board, with a supporting Chevy Chase being the biggest scene-stealer. Still, DIRTY WORK delivers in bringing laughs to the screen and entertaining the viewer for its entire running time. If you need some time to kill and are looking for an underrated comedy that’s been forgotten by time, DIRTY WORK comes recommended!

Grade: B-

FARCE OF THE PENGUINS (2007)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Crude Sexual Content and Language

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Directed by: Bob Saget

Written by: Bob Saget

Voices of: Bob Saget, Lewis Black, Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Applegate, Jamie Kennedy, David Koechner, Whoopi Goldberg, Mo’Nique, Tracy Morgan, Carlos Mencia, Dane Cook, Jason Alexander, Jason Biggs, Norm Macdonald, Brie Larson, James Belushi, Dave Coulier, John Stamos, Jon Lovitz, Gilbert Gottfried, Damon Wayans & Abe Vigoda

If you’ve only seen Bob Saget in the long-running sitcom FULL HOUSE or hosting AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS, you might think he’s a family friendly comedian who constantly indulges in funny voices. You would be dead wrong though, because this man is a very adult-oriented, filthy comedian. Besides pulling a lot of dirty pranks behind the scenes of FULL HOUSE (which have been detailed in entertaining stories from former cast and crew members), Saget also had a penchant for producing disgusting stand-up comedy. He constantly swore up a storm on the stage and though I don’t find him to be hysterically funny, I can see the appeal in his profanity-laden brand of humor.

FARCE OF THE PENGUINS is Saget’s spoof of acclaimed documentary MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. Saget stated that he merely wanted to redub that original documentary, but wasn’t able to get permission from the filmmakers (gee, I wonder why). Instead, this X-rated real life counterpart to Danny Tanner compiled a mountain of stock footage and painstakingly edited it together. FARCE’s story revolves around penguins Carl (Bob Saget) and Jimmy (Lewis Black). Carl is a neurotic mess looking for love and Jimmy is a horny jerk starved for sex. Along with hundreds of other penguins, the two pals trek across the Antarctic for their annual mating season. Elsewhere, penguin Melissa (Christina Applegate) is waiting for “the one.” There are also subplots about a crazy loner (Carlos Mencia), a band of flightless birds that get lost in a barren landscape caused by global warming, and Samuel L. Jackson narrates with gratuitous “fucks” thrown every which way.

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FARCE seems like one of those animal clips from AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS with a larger voice cast, a feature-length running time, and more profanity/sex jokes than you would ever see on network television. Saget was clearly having a good time in making this movie and called out a lot of favors, as demonstrated by a large cast of big comedians (most of whom only pop in for a quick vocal cameo, before taking off running). Sadly, FARCE is an all-around failure that might have been funny if it were fifteen minutes long or if Saget found a way to keep things interesting beyond the one joke premise. Neither of those things happen though, turning FARCE into an all-out endurance test. This movie drags to a point where an 80 minute running time feels over two hours long. By the time the third act arrives (complete with extra scenes throughout the end credits), anyone drunk or high enough to get legitimate joy out of this film will likely be passed out or comatose in their boredom.

Even Saget seems to get bored with his main narrative, because he frequently finds reasons to cut away to other stock footage of different animals through FAMILY GUY-like throwaway lines. These include moments like Jimmy saying “Have you ever seen a walrus scratch it’s balls?” and then we cut away to thirty seconds of various walruses scratching themselves. Does that sound funny? What about the bit where they reference the writer of this movie and cut to an adorable monkey with a typewriter? That actually may have been a funny joke, but then Saget milks that primate footage for two more minutes of screen time. The only two moments that could have elicited chuckles out of me were already revealed in the 90-second-long trailer, Norm Macdonald asking to join in a threesome and Gilbert Gottfried screaming about “freezing his nuts off.”

In terms of lame spoofs, FARCE OF THE PENGUINS is marginally lower than reference-heavy garbage like MEET THE SPARTANS, DISASTER MOVIE, and EPIC MOVIE. Though those big-budget spoofs are abhorrently unfunny, mistake pop culture references for humor, and seem like pimples on the ass of the cinematic landscape, at least they have the decency to keep viewers rolling their eyes in frustration. FARCE OF THE PENGUINS is a struggle to get through and makes it seem like an insurmountable task to keep yourself awake for 80 straight minutes. If you have the desire to see comedians dub over penguins, then you’d be better off watching the FARCE trailer on YouTube and leaving it at that.

Grade: F

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