The first, or maybe second, third or even fourth Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of every month Nathan Rabin writes about three DVD premieres for Dispatches From Direct-To-DVD Purgatory. In today's edition, a vanity film from a corpulent boy band Svengali, the world's stupidest erotic thriller and Jamie Kennedy strikes back at people who think Jamie Kennedy sucks.
Longshot: I am a man of many unhealthy obsessions. One of my unhealthiest obsessions is with corpulent man-beast/boy band Svengali Louis J. Pearlman, he of the Jabba The Hutt-like physique and Fagin-like sense of business ethics. Visit the A.V Club's Chicago offices and I'll proudly show you the now incarcerated and disgraced Pearlman's Bachelor's Degree, MBA and 20th Century Republican Leader certificate from the Florida wing of the GOP, all of which I now own (thanks, Ebay!) So when I discovered that Pearlman has co-written, produced and even co-starred in an ill-fated 2000 teen movie called Longshot I was intrigued. Here was a chance to combine two of my guiltiest pleasures: Lou Pearlman and shitty direct-to-DVD movies.
Oh sweet blessed Lord was I not disappointed. The film begins with perhaps the most awkward framing device in film history, as Making the Band alum O-Town gather around a television to watch a movie. Here's the really freaky part: that movie is Longshot! Is your mind officially blown yet? It's like they're totally watching the same movie that we are! Once that bit of metatextual motherfuckery is over we get to the movie proper.
The film's paper-thin plot concerns a Beverly Hills womanizer (Tony DeCamilis, who also co-wrote and produced) who is blackmailed by mobster Paul Sorvino into coercing businesswoman Hunter Tylo into revealing valuable trade secrets. Meanwhile, DeCamilis' vaguely simian younger brother (Joey Sculthorpe) blows a big shot at his high school basketball game in a subplot that exists solely for the sake of utterly gratuitous shots of soaking wet, half-naked young men lathering themselves up, then lovingly caressing every trembling muscle with their firm, strong young hands. There are gay porn films less homoerotic than Longshot's locker-room sequences.
Longshot's lead and supporting characters would need to be fleshed out just to qualify as one-dimensional but Longshot is really just an excuse to shove all of Pearlman's almost-human creations into one shitty movie. Early in the film, DeCamilis "quips" that he feels like he's "in one of those cheesy teen movies with tons of cameos" cause–prepare to have your mind blown a second time–he is in a cheesy teen movie with tons of cameos.
So we're treated to Britney Spears as a stewardess, The Rock as a mugger, Justin Timberlake as a sassy valet, Joey Fatone as "Pizza chef" and countless other cameos far too stupid to get into. For example, Lance Bass pops up as a "Flight Engineer" who looks at some airplane gizmos and frets, "These gauges are all out of wack. We've gotta get–in sync!" before looking at the camera and winking. Yes, it's that kind of a movie.
Even Pearlman gets a cameo. It's strange, though, that Pearlman, a man who has logged countless hours showing his boy band proteges gladiator films, presiding over epic tickle-fights and lovingly giving young people massages would have such a shaky grasp on how teenagers talk. To be fair, I imagine that when Pearlman was kicking it with N'Sync, Backstreet Boys and LFO the fellas mainly said things like, "No! Stop it! I don't like you that way!", "I'll tell my parents!" and "Well, if this really is the only way to get a deal–" Those sentiments would feel out of place in disposable, brain-dread fluff like this.
Just How Bad Is It? As a hilariously cheesy time capsule of Pearlman's late nineties' Golden Age, it's priceless. As a movie, it's worthless.
Impulse: Every once in a while you stumble across a b-movie so deliciously bone-headed, so utterly devoid of merit, so infantile and mush-headed that it transcends mere badness and becomes inexplicably awesome. The 2007 Willa Ford vehicle Impulse is such a film. Ford, of course, is the thinking poor rich man's third-rate road show Britney Spears, a disposable pop tart whose career peaked with a randy semi-hit single "I Wanna Be Bad", a gig on Dancing With The Stars and the starring role as the sad sentient trainwreck that was Anna Nicole Smith in the 2007 movie Anna Nicole.
Ford stars as a hard-charging advertising executive whose marriage to uptight shrinkologist Angus MacFayden has fallen into a rut. When Ford tries to spice up their love life with sexy lingerie, role-playing and impromptu sex, MacFadyen's buttoned-up mind immediately frets about dinner getting burnt. Then one night Ford spies the whale-like, disheveled MacFadyen guzzling liquor in a hotel bar. They head back to her room for hot sex. It isn't until later that Ford realizes that the man she fooled around with at the hotel wasn't her boring old hubby in role-playing guise after all, but rather a disturbed stranger who just happens to look exactly like her husband. And weighs the exact same amount. And has the exact same sized penis. And smells the same. And talks the same. Yet is in no way, shape or form related to said husband. Hey, it could happen to anyone. So the next time you're making love with your spouse make sure that it's actually them and not an evil doppelganger.
The bad MacFadyen begins stalking Ford and terrorizing the good MacFadyen in scenes that suggest exactly what might happen if you were to crossbreed The Patty Duke Show and Fatal Attraction in a Cinemax laboratory. Having played Orson Welles in Cradle Will Rock and Peter Lawford in Rat Pack, Macfadyen is overqualified for this overheated schlock but how often does an actor get to give two wildly different terrible performances in the same film? Unintentional hilarity ensues as well as copious nudity. Boobs, non-stop laughs and a plot of staggering, mind-boggling stupidity: what more could you want from a direct-to-DVD thriller?
Just How Bad Is It? For masturbators and lovers of camp it's surprisingly awesome.
Heckler: Producer/star Jamie Kennedy and director Michael Addis' documentary Heckler is a sneaky case of bait and switch. It promises a raw, darkly comic exploration of the shadowy underworld of hecklers, those cranky, misanthropic souls who enliven/destroy performances by subjecting comedians to endless torrents of abuse. Heckler stays entertainingly on-target for about twenty-five minutes until it shifts dramatically and becomes a full-on attack on critics in general and critics who hate Jamie Kennedy in particular. A better title might have been Jamie Kennedy: Why Do Internet Critics Hate Me? or Jamie Kennedy: Overly Sensitive Douchebag. In the film's curious geometry the drunk guy at Sir Laughs A Lot yelling insults at Jamie Kennedy=Leonard Maltin panning Son Of The Mask=Internet hater JamieKennedyisworsethanHitler6969 spouting off about how Jamie Kennedy's mom should have had him aborted. It's a particularly flimsy case of guilt by association.
Heckler tosses out all the usual arguments against critics. It argues, for example, that there are no job requirements to become a critic. This is in sharp contrast to stand-up comics like Kennedy, who need to get at least a post-graduate degree from Harvard in humorology before hitting open mic night, and actors, who must get MFAs from Juliard before their first audition. The film also argues that critics are just out to make a name for themselves, that they're more interested in furthering their writing career and holding onto a shrinking number of critic jobs than in offering bland, objective, purposefully dry critiques of Son of the Mask that will serve the public good instead of drawing attention to themselves. Again, this is in sharp contrast to comedians and actors, who go out of their way not to be noticed or loved. The last thing aspiring comedians or actors want to do is make a name for themselves.
Like Uwe Boll taking on his critics in the boxing ring–a publicity stunt the film chronicles approvingly–Kennedy here engages in verbal sparring with his critics. In a scene of considerable train-wreck fascination, Kennedy asks a mortified online reviewer if he'd ever gotten a particularly sloppy, mind-boggling kind of blowjob, the implication being that a sexless Poindexter has no business slinging dirt at a rich guy who regularly has meaningless casual sex with reasonably attractive women with low self-esteem. He similarly taunts a hapless cyber-scribe by asking him if he digs Star Trek and hangs out at Comic Con.
Not surprisingly, Kennedy comes off much worse than his critics. Kennedy legitimately criticizes his foes for writing venomously personal diatribes. When I write a review I always try to keep in mind that the people I'm writing about are flesh and blood human beings with feelings and emotions and families and all that other sentimental horseshit, not rich, famous, beautiful abstractions. To give Kennedy and the film credit, it's seldom boring, features some great anecdotes from Kennedy's stand-up peers and raises compelling questions about the nature of criticism. The irony, of course, is that in attacking the personal criticism of his detractors in such an ugly, below-the-belt fashion Kennedy has given writers ample reason to despise Kennedy the man as much, if not more, than Kennedy the performer.
Just How Bad Is It? It's strangely watchable if ultimately creepy and unconvincing