Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory: The Actor/Writer/Director/Major League Jackass Edition
The first Monday of every month Nathan Rabin writes about three DVD premieres for Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory, unless, of course, he gets really, really busy, in which case he has to push it back to Wednesday and he feels bad about it, sure, but that Jay-Z album review and Jay-Z Primer aren't going to write themselves, are they, and besides he's got about a million other things to do, not to mention his nighttime job as a professional skip tracer, which you probably didn't even know about it, so please, just be cool about it and don't make a big fuss or nothing or the next sentence will be three times as long and half as coherent. Seriously.Danny Roane: First Time Director (2006):
Andy Dick devolved into grotesque self-parody so long ago that it's easy to forget that he was once an accomplished young comic actor better known for his virtuoso sketch work on The Ben Stiller Show than for stumbling deliriously through an endless series of drunken, drug-addled tabloid freakouts. Dick's characteristically self-indulgent yet surprisingly clever directorial debut Danny Roane: First Time Director should give plenty of ammunition for both Dick's well-earned army of detractors as well as his dozen or so extremely indulgent, preternaturally forgiving remaining fans. On paper at least Danny Roane looks like Dick's version of Pauly Shore Is Dead. They're both calculatedly self-lacerating attempts by widely reviled walking punchlines to worm their way back into the limelight by savagely spoofing their status as widely reviled walking punchlines. The difference is that Dick's movie is actually, you know, funny. Sometimes.
First time film director Dick here plays an embarrassing Andy Dick-like burnout who tries to salvage his faltering career by directing an anti-drug art movie starring James Van Der Beek, who in one of the film's funniest bits, says that he could relate to the role because he'd been through some pretty dark times himself: "Marijuana was involved" he brags cryptically. Dick quickly falls off the wagon and decides to transform his film into an avant-garde musical starring Rent's Anthony Rapp. Chaos ensues, along with scattered moments of hilarity as Dick works through a checklist of easily mocked satirical targets, from experimental art films to drunken excess to corny sitcoms and cheesy catchphrases. Dick clearly worked his Rolodex hard, securing a very funny cameo from Jack Black as himself playing a stoned God and less funny but still game cameos from Ben Stiller, Danny Trejo and Maura Tierney. Roane won't do anything to convert Dick haters but if I can damn it with some seriously faint praise it's much funnier than most theatrically released comedies. And if Dick ever decides to make a spin-off movie called James Van Der Beek: Marijuana Hell I'll be first in line for it.Just How Bad Is It? It's surprisingly not-terrible. Kinda, sorta goodish even. The Groomsmen (2006):Edward Burns recently made headlines when his latest "low-budg" time-waster Purple Violets became the first film to go direct-to-Itunes. Yes, direct to Itunes. Damn you, Ed Burns! Why must you be so hopelessly resilient? Why hasn't the tidal wave of indifference that's greeted everything you've done as a filmmaker this decade dimmed your passion for crapping out terrible movies at a steady, almost inhuman clip? So I am appealing to you directly, Mr. Burns: please stop directing movies. Just stop. I know it'll be hard to curb your bad-movie-making addiction but humanity will ultimately thank you for your sacrifice. I honestly can't say why I hate Burns so much. He's not a bad actor, necessarily, but a lot of his personality comes through in his films and that personality is what Ali G. would call "a bit crap". Watching the haphazardly thrown-together 2006 comedy-drama The Groomsmen it's easy to imagine that Burns and his actor buddies were sitting around drinking beer and playing cards before Burns had a Eureka moment and proposed "Hey, why are we wasting our time sitting around drinking beer and playing cards like a buncha losers when I could be filming an indifferently shot comedy about a bunch of guys like us who sit around drinking beer and playing cards! I'll do it low-budg style!"
Here Burns, Jay Mohr, Matthew Lillard, John Leguizamo and Donal Logue play a group of friends that reunite for Burns' impending wedding. Like so many of Burns' films it's a coming-of-age story about guys trying to become men that betrays a distinctly adolescent view of relationships in general and women in particular. I don't remember much about this film except that it felt like a bunch of acting-class improvisations stretched into an instantly forgettable exercise in Burns' "low-budg" aesthetic. I didn't hate it the way I did The Brothers McMullen or She's the One but it did nothing to change my conviction that Burns seriously needs to put down the camera and stop subjecting a wildly indifferent world to his modest little sub-mediocrities.Just How Bad Is It? It's less bad than blandly forgettable The Tripper (2006): At this point Andy Dick and David Arquette have collectively irritated every man, woman and child in God's United States. If there were a Mount Rushmore of obnoxious jackassery Arquette and Dick's smirking mugs would rest next to hideously oversized visages of Pauly Shore and Carrot Top just waiting to be slapped hard by some agitated fifty-foot-tall giant-ass motherfucker. So you can imagine the kinds of horrible things I must have done in a past life to have to watch both of their directorial debuts in a one-week span. Co-written, produced and directed by Arquette, who also plays a supporting role, The Tripper is a DOA slasher spoof about a group of dumbass hippies who get picked off by a deranged killer in a Ronald Reagan mask.
There's something to be said for spoofs that perfectly mimic the look and feel of their satirical target but The Tripper is indistinguishable from the Z-grade schlock it's ostensibly spoofing/paying homage to. Any aspirations to satire, political, social, cinematic or otherwise got hopelessly lost somewhere between the smoking sessions where this was dreamed up and the dire finished product. Arquette seems to labor under the delusion that intentionally terrible horror movie+dude in a Reagan mask=trenchant satire. Instead it's a muddled equation that adds up to utter shite. God only knows what Paul Reubens, Lukas Haas and Thomas Jane are doing in this mess but this is easily the worst film I've written about in this column. That includes Snoop Dogg's Hood Of Horror.Just How Bad Is It? Really fucking awful, even for Arquette