Whenever he damn well feels like it Nathan Rabin emerges from his crypt of doom, drinks the blood of virgins to regain his waning potency and writes about two or three DVD premieres for Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory.
“BEFORE filming scenes for his new comedy Big Stan, Rob Schneider would first pause to get in touch with his inner Buddhist.With legs crossed and eyes closed he would strike a relaxation pose. As his crew looked on in silence, Schneider would block everything out — "the camera, the really hot-looking caterer, the actress who's constantly worried about her make-up" — and just concentrate. After a few deep breaths he'd snap back, refreshed, focused, ready for work.Schneider discovered Buddhism three years ago and, he says, "it has changed my life". He is healthier, happier, more reflective and balanced. "It's given me a peace, it really has," Schneider enthuses after demonstrating his pose on the hotel room carpet. "It's improved my work. Big Stan works dramatically because I think I'm maturing as a person, I hope."
So begins a recent profile of Rob Schneider. The article goes on to note that Big Stan is a huge gamble for the diminutive cut-up since it’s his first film outside the loving womb of Adam Sandler’s hitmaking Happy Madison powerhouse. Alas, a world that inexplicably/cruelly made Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Animal and even Benchwarmers hits didn’t see fit to give Big Stan even a token theatrical release.
To illustrate his newly Zen outlook Schneider chose to star, produce and direct a film about the profound spiritual awakening of an imprisoned con artist (Schneider) who comes to realize that there’s more to life than just avoiding gang rape. Yes, an emotional epiphany led Schneider to make a comedy about a guy who really, really does not want to get brutally gang-raped by his fellow convicts.
In his heroic quest to avoid getting sodomized against his will by dozens of muscled, tattooed lifers Schneider enlists the services of a flaky guru/martial arts master played by a self-parodying David Carradine (way to make good use of that post-Tarantino career bump, buddy!), whose methods are unconventional, if not downright criminal. Carradine helps give Schneider the tools he needs to prevent his anus from being ripped apart by the outsized phalluses of a vast army of unwanted anal invaders.
In the article Schneider acknowledges that the film proceeds a little slowly for some folks (namely people who think comedies should be funny) but that it was absolutely essential for him to devote forty fucking minutes to establishing Schneider’s bone-deep, unshakable fear of being held down against the cold, unforgiving concrete of prison floors and ruthlessly violated by one lust-crazed rapist after another before his character even enters prison. Big Stan consequently runs a staggering 109 minutes, or roughly a half hour longer than a Rob Schneider prison rape comedy has any right to last.
Schneider’s training under Carradine works almost too well. His incredible new fighting technique and ripped physique so terrify his colleagues that he quickly becomes the undisputed king of the cellblock. In keeping with Schneider’s new spiritual direction he uses this power for good rather than evil. He brings people together, bans rape and climactically stands up to an evil warden played by In Cold Blood’s Scott Wilson.
Yet the question remains: at any point in Big Stan does Schneider get raped? The answer, sadly, is no. On my Twitter feed I gave followers a minute-by-minute account of whether Rob Schneider was in the midst of being brutally gang-raped by an entire cellblock. That is what the internets were created for: for me to tell people whether or not a laughing stock of a comic actor is being brutally raped in a vague approximation of real time.
While anyone who has spent time in jail knows that prison rape is hilarious in real life it seldom makes for good comedy, as Let’s Go To Prison and the Rob Corddry entry in The Ten recently reminded us.
The big problem with Big Stan is that it’s just not funny. It’s sweet-natured and looks great and a more than adequate Schneider is ably supported by ringers like Carradine, Scott Wilson, Sally Kirkland and M. Emmett Walsh as a sleazy lawyer but the laughs never arrive. Big Stan uses Schneider’s character as something more than a vessel for stand-alone gags but the actor’s fans expect more from the actor’s films than a vaguely comic exploration of a sinful man’s moral evolution.
The profile linked to above quotes a weary Schneider lamenting, "It's one thing for a guy in his 20s, the funny, goofy guy running around in his underwear. In his 40s it starts to get a little sad.” A deeply spiritual man going to extremes to avoid being violated in a prison shower on the other hand: that’s pretty much dignity personified.
Just How Bad Is It? Not as bad as you’d imagine but far from good all the same
Does Rob Schneider Get Raped At Any Point? Nope
The Pleasure Drivers: One of my favorite DVD box tricks are phantom "accolades" that have the form and structure of glowing blurbs but lack attribution. For example the mind bogglingly awful thriller Pleasure Driver’s back cover crows, “(the film is) described as funny, sexy, edgy and dangerous”, without revealing who, if anyone has ever praised the movie in those terms. So there you have it, folks: according to its promotional material someone at some point somewhere may have used glowing adjectives like funny, sexy, edgy and dangerous to describe Pleasure Drivers. Or not.
The film stars Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD-Purgatory favorite Angus McFayden as a boozy college professor who comes home one afternoon to discover his wife is leaving him for a hot young lesbian. While licking his wounds at a bar he picks up a mysterious young woman played by Lacey Chabert. First Chabert masquerades as one of his students. In quick succession Chabert professes to find the act of riding in a car explosively erotic, pretends to urinate in her seat and masturbates furiously while an oblivious McFayden prattles on about tenets of psychology. That’d be enough excitement for most characters but not for our Lacey. It turns out she’s a prostitute/sex addict but when it looks like the magic is finally going to happen between her and McFayden she has a sudden change of heart and abruptly rescinds her offer to let McFayden plow her fertile fields for money.
When I was a teenager I spoke as a teenager. I understood as a teenager I thought as a teenager. Consequently when picking out a movie my first/only consideration was “are boobs involved”? But then, like Rob Schneider, I evolved emotionally and spiritually. These days “are boobs involved” is only the third or fourth most important criteria when it comes to choosing films. So while Pleasure Drivers is a terrible, terrible film Chabert’s cleavage in it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Chabert at least gives the film a fissure of sleazy energy. Whenever she’s offscreen the film is glacially paced, dreadfully acted and dumb as dirt. It gets bogged down in non-starting subplots involving a lesbian hit-person, the kidnapping of a former cult-leader, a dying guy with a neck brace played by Meat Loaf Aday, a shadowy cleric played by a sleepy Billy Zane and a bunch of other random quirks that undoubtedly seemed profound to the screenwriter at the time but die onscreen.
In this here piece Pleasure Drivers is described as portentous, dull, derivative and also a giant fucking pile of shit.
Just How Bad Is It? Pretty fucking dreadful
Does Rob Schneider Get Raped At Any Point? No, predictably enough
Against the Dark: In the prehistoric days of the A.V Club I wrote extensively about rapsploitation dreck like Urban Menace and The Wrecking Crew, ridiculous exploitation movies where Snoop Dogg gets top billing for roles that average about two minutes of screen time. To quote Yogi Berra it was déjà vu all over again watching Against The Dark, a dreadful new Steven Seagal vampire cheapie. The film sorely lacks many things: production values, scares, a set that isn’t a badly lit abandoned hospital, competent acting and a decent script just for starters. Astonishingly enough, it even lacks in the Steven Seagal department. Though marketed as a Seagal vehicle, a fluorescent orange, black trenchcoat-clad Seagal-shaped blob logs no more than five minutes of screentime in the film’s first hour.
Seagal is often shot in slow motion, both as a desperate, unsuccessful attempt to create an iconic swagger around the reviled former A-lister and because it’s a cheap way to double Seagal’s time onscreen. The martial artist is much more of a presence in the film’s third act but his participation is nevertheless an epic bait and switch. It always sucks when a film promises to be one kind of shitty movie, then proves to be a vastly different pile of shit. Against The Dark promises undiscriminating action buffs the tantalizing promise of Steven Seagal killing a shit-ton of blood suckers only to deliver a cheap, half-assed horror movie with a minor supporting performance by a sleepwalking, geriatric Seagal. There is a place in hell reserved for people who try to spin crappy horror movies as vehicles for fading action stars. It’s located, conveniently enough, right next to the spot in hell reserved for Seagal himself.
Just How Bad Is It? Unbelievably awful
Does Rob Schneider Get Raped At Any Point? Yes! No, no he does not.