When selecting a bad movie, it is usually wise to avoid comedies. Failed dramas, horror films or sci-fi can often produce unintentional belly laughs, but a failed comedy is just painful. Still, every now and then I can put up with an unfunny comedy without really understanding why. “Okay, movie, you just keep telling me jokes, and I’ll just keep sitting here quietly studying you. I won’t laugh, but I won’t switch off, either. For some reason, I’m determined to watch 90 minutes of investment bankers getting shoved into swimming pools, or frustrated cops angrily tossing their hats on the ground. Oh, and throw in some slide-whistles while you’re at it. They won’t help; I’m just ticking off boxes on a cliché checklist. Let’s do this.”
I guess my natural laziness is amplified by comedies that aren’t quite awful enough to stop watching. Take, for example, Rob Zombie’s R-rated cartoon feature, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009). Here we’ve got a smarmy luchador (voiced by Tom Papa) and his hyper-sexualized gun-toting sister Suzi-X (Sheri Moon Zombie) fighting Nazi zombies, werewolves and arch villain Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti), while goofy sex ’n’ violence abounds — along with a voice cast full of amazing cult performers (Elvira, Clint Howard, Sid Haig, Tura Satana, Dee Wallace, Danny Trejo, et freaking cetera).
All that might sound pretty good, except that none of the jokes are funny. For a show that’s 90 per cent jokes, that’s kind of a big problem. Five minutes into this mess, my brain gave up on amusement altogether and just started marvelling at how Haunted World blends all of these potentially awesome elements together into something that’s impossible to remember or care about five minutes after you’ve seen it. Oddly enough, though, it’s never boring.
I had a similarly mirthless yet interesting experience watching Sex Crazy (a.k.a. Locos Por El Sexo) (2006), a Spanish comedy about a bunch of lovable mental patients who get a day pass to visit a brothel. Remember that mediocre Michael Keaton/Christopher Lloyd comedy The Dream Team (1989)? It’s like that, only with hookers. We meet the standard lineup of goofy, non-threatening asylum inmates (the pyro, the patient who thinks he’s a doctor, the Jesus freak, the shy paranoiac who wears a tinfoil hat), as well as the progressive therapist who decides to let the group get some therapy of a different sort. Get in the bus, boys; it’s blowjobs for everybody! Hooray! A good time is had by all, but complications ensue. Tinfoil-hat guy falls in love with a prostitute who’s blackmailing a dangerous character on the side. One accidental murder later, we find the happy couple out in the countryside, where the lovable mental patient forces the girl to marry him by threatening to sacrifice her in a goat pasture.
Umm... wait, is it still a comedy at this point? It must be; the actors are still making stupid faces, and wacky sound effects are popping up unexpectedly. I guess we’re supposed to find this forced marriage charming, since the two of them fall in love for real in the end. Threats of human sacrifice are just one of those little quirks that make mental patients such endearing husband material. In any case, the whole film is done with such a light tone that it’s just a few curse words and a brief boob-flash away from being like an ’80s sitcom. Why did I watch this? Oh right, because there’s a girl wearing lingerie on the cover. Well played, movie.